About the poet
Yeats was involved in Irish politics for most of his life. As a propagandist for the nationalist cause, he was active in his younger years, promoting interest in Irish cultural language in particular literature, both of the past and the modern canon. He was a member of the revolutionary party, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, for a brief period, attracted in particular by his all-consuming, yet unrequited love of Maude Gonne, a pioneer in revolt against English rule. He met Lady Augusta Gregory in 1896, and he helped found the Irish National Theatre, the home of the Abbey Players, as a result of her patronage and his partnership with her. He was appointed to the Senate of the new Irish Free State in 1922.
Table of Contents
Summary of No Second Troy
The poem “No Second Troy” was published in the collection The Green Helmet and Other Poems (1910). The subject of the poem is the unrequited love of the poet for Maud Gonne, the beautiful and Irish nationalist firebrand, who he met in 1889, and instantly fell in love with. Though she was Yeats’s friend and collaborated with him as actor in the Irish plays the writer produced at the Abbey Theatre and Yeats would often visit her and show her his poems, she never returned his love. However, Yeats remained fascinated by her beauty and
personality all his life. After her husband Major John McBride’s death in the 1916 Easter uprising, Yeats again proposed to Gonne, hoping that she might accept his love, but she again turned down his proposal. Thereupon, he proposed to her daughter but was to be disappointed yet again.
In “No Second Troy”, Yeats works admits his infatuation for Gonne, while successfully coming out of the provocation to blame her for causing him emotional misery by refusing his love. To express the extraordinary beauty of Gonne, Yeats invokes a comparison with Helen of Troy, the most beautiful and controversial woman of the classical world, who was the cause behind the Trojan War, as sung in Homer’s Iliad. However, the poet goes beyond his romantic attraction towards Gonne. In his elevation of the beauty of Gonne and his ‘misery, even as he brings Helen in the context, the poet snubs the middle-class Irish people, who lack the ability and resolution to understand her extraordinary character and personality and rise to her expectations. The age itself does not deserve Maud Gonne, who is so much like the Helen of Troy.
Analysis of No Second Troy
The poem is structured by four rhetorical questions. Grammatically, it is grouped into two sections of fives lines each, followed by two lines. In the first five lines using the first rhetorical question, the poet absolves Maud Gonne from the blame of being the cause of his misery, as well as for exciting the unworthy men to chaotic violence. In the second group of five lines, posing the second rhetorical question, the poet ironically states that the middle-class Irish people had no moral strength to equal their ‘desire’ of a free Ireland, and wonders how a woman of such noble and tranquil mind, as well as exceptional character and beauty as Maud Gonne could, find peace in an age so mean. In the last two lines, containing the third and fourth rhetorical questions, the poet makes explicit her comparison with Helen of Troy, but regrets metaphorically that Ireland was no Troy to burn for Gonne, as Troy had done for Helen.
The poem comes across as Yeats’ William Butler Yeats s attempt to reconcile with the rejection by Maud Gonne by overcoming the consternation caused by his unrequited love to blame her. In the same imaginative sweep, however, he also sees an opportunity to resent finds the Sinn Fein men, the rabble that found the better of Maud Gonne as was their leader, and wife of John MacBride, the Irish nationalist was executed for his role in the Easter Uprising. Yeats no doubt disliked MacBride; even in the poem “Easter 1916” written on the Uprising, Yeats could not hide his jealousy and dislike for MacBride:
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vain-glorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart
Yet I number him in the song
To Yeats, the coarse and plebian mob that Gonne led in different revolutionary activities, and who she chose over the love of Yeats hardly deserved a royal mind and classic beauty that she embodied:
, or that she would of late
Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,
Or hurled the little streets upon the great,
Had they but courage equal to desire?
The juxtaposition of the images “little street” and “the great” confirms Yeats’s faith in the aristocratic lineage and his enthusiasm for the traditional Irish society under the protection of the aristocratic lords. The agents of nationalism therefore for him should have been noble and valiant men of the upper class rather than the “ignorant men,” who have no physical or moral “courage equal to desire.”
The poet employs two similes to suggest the nobility of Gonne’s mind and her extraordinary beauty:
What could have made her peaceful with a mind
That nobleness made simple as fire
With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind
That is not natural in an age like this,
It is the exalted nature of her mind, as pure “as fire,” as well as her physical
“beauty like a tightened bow” that gives her superiority over the crowd, and makes her presence out of place “in an age like this.” In the smile “beauty like a tightened bow,” the word/object “bow” transforms into a symbol of sternness and grace, a mix of austerity and passionate action, restraint and violence.
In the final movement of the poem, Yeats wonders what would Maud Gonne do knowing what she is, as there was no another Troy to burn for her.
The poem is in the form of a sonnet, with an exception. It does not have the couplet that ends a sonnet. It has 12 lines, whereas a sonnet has 14 lines.
Shakespeare’s sonnet no. 126 only has 12 lines rather than 14. Unlike grammatically, the rhyme scheme structures the poem into three quatrains of 4 lines each: abab, cdcd, efef. The metre employed, as in a sonnet, is that of iambic pentameter, in which five stressed syllables each follow an unstressed syllable. In other words, an iambic pentameter line would contain 10 syllables set in a pattern in which an unstressed syllable is followed by a stressed syllable:
What could have made her peace-ful with a mind
Model Questions of No Second Troy
Q. 1 Who was the Helen of Troy alluded to in the poem?
Answer: Helen of Troy was daughter of the Greek god Zeus, and Leda, wife of Tyndareus, the king of Sparta. The seduction of Leda by Zeus in the form of a swan is the subject of Yeats’s poem “Leda and Swan.”Helen was abducted by Paris, the Prince of Troy, which resulted in the Trojan War fought between the Greek states and Troy.
Q. 2 What is the significance of the title “No Second Troy”?
Answer: The title gives a unity to the thought of the poem. The poem is a comment on the fallen values of the time. Even as Ireland desperately needs a cultural and political revolution against the colonial occupation of Britain, the middle class is too engrossed in its mechanical routine and mercantile
ambitions to worry about the country. Comparing Maud Gonne with Helen,
Yeats says though she is equally beautiful and noble, Ireland is not the place
she deserved, as it would not be truly inspired as Troy was by Helen. There
would be ‘no second Troy.’
Q. 3 Why does the poet consider the people of his era and time not deserving Maud Gonne?
Answer: The poet reprimands the Irish people of his age to be a violent mob, lacking the nobility of mind that Gonne possesses; they lack courage and conviction and are driven by desires. Therefore, the poet says, Maud Gonne is born with a physical beauty and mental nobility “not natural in this age.”