Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Landscape and Alienation

The profound sense of alienation evoked in Yeats' "The Second Coming" seems odd in connection with the other works we've been reading. On the one hand, the desolate landscape described in
Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
seems to invoke a sort of supernatural in "a waste of desert sand," and "a gaze blank and pitiless as the sun." This supernatural is not the same as the sort seen in The Castle of Otranto and other works, which focus on the supernatural in the personal, the individual. Even in earlier Yeats' poems, the supernatural is placed in the hands of the individual. I wander what it means that the supernatural has entered into the landscape instead of the individual. With the landscape as the conduit for the supernatural, there seems to be no space left for the individual.

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