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January 9, 2011

No Second Troy by William Butler Yeats- Analysis

No Second Troy by William Butler Yeats- Analysis

William Butler Yeats' poem "No Second Troy" is undoubtedly about Maud Gonne. Yeats met Gonne in 1889 and she quickly became the object of his unwavering affection. She became the heroine and inspiration of his poetry from then on. Yeats was awarded the Noble Prize in Literature in 1923; however he is considered to be one of the few writers, who received this prize, to write their best work after they received the award.

In line one, Yeat is referring to Maud Gonne when he says "she." By the time Yeats wrote this poem, which was around 1908, he had proposed to Maud four times (in 1891, 1899, 1900, and then in 1901). She turned down every proposal. In 1908, William and Maud consummated their friendship; afterwards Maud decided that they would not be making love again, which most likely crushed him. The misery that she has filled his days with lately is most likely referring to this incident between Maud and William.

Maud was widely known for her revolutionary activities in Ireland. She campaigned for the nationalism in Ireland, and held special functions for children. She wanted to preserve the Irish culture, in spite of British colonization. Many could talk big game, but few had the courage to back it up. Maud wanted to instill a fighting spirit in her fellow Irishman.

Maud had a mind of her own and she used it to her advantage. She was not the kind of woman who could be content acting like a demure lady. Maud was also a feminist, which is fitting for her personality. Around Easter of 1900, Maud founded the Daughter's of Ireland, which is a revolutionary women's society.

"Beauty like a tightened bow" has several meanings. One, she is very controlled and has a lot of tension in her frame; or she is poised and ready to strike at her enemy. Saying that it "is not natural in an age like this" can mean that she is unlike most other women of that time period and ahead of her time. Or this can mean that she is too young to have the ideals that she has, and to have this kind of control over herself. She is of an aristocratic background. She is okay being a revolutionary pioneer and she will hold strong to her convictions.

The way she turned out was beyond her control; she was born to push the boundaries and challenge authority. Maud is like Helen of Troy, who was the cause of the Trojan War and it's destruction.


Yeats, William Butler. "No Second Troy." Norton Anthology of English Literature: Twentieth Century and After. Vol. F. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York: Norton, 2006. 2029.

"William Butler Yeats." Wikipedia. 2009. 22 Sept. 2009. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Yeats.

"Maud Gonne." Wikipedia. 2009. 22 Sept, 2009. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maud_Gonne

Image in Header
This is a photograph of Evelyn de Morgan's painting, Helen of Troy, which was painted in 1898. The physical painting is on display at De Morgan Centre in London, England. The image used on easylitnotes.com is in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons.