No Second Troy
The first decades of the 20th century were very tumultuous for Ireland, which was then still a colony of Britain. Irish intellectuals of all stripes, including both Yeats and Maud Gonne (the woman about whom this poem is written), believed that Ireland should be able to rule itself, but opinions differed about how to achieve this goal. As "No Second Troy" shows, Yeats did not believe that violent or aggressive tactics were ever appropriate, while Maud Gonne thought that episodes of British brutality demanded a more forceful response. The fact that Yeats was madly in love with this woman for much of his life throws another explosive element into the mix.
Questions About Politics
- Does it seem like the speaker is opposed to all forms of political activism, or only violent forms?
- Who does the speaker mean by "ignorant men" (line 3)? What social class do these men belong to, and what class does Maud Gonne belong to?
- Why have so many writers found the destruction of the ancient city of Troy to be such a powerful political symbol?
- How do you think Gonne has "taught" political violence in Ireland (line 3)? What does Yeats mean by this expression?
Chew on This
The speaker of the poem believes that a deeply flawed political order is better than a lack of order. He is willing to tolerate substantial injustice to avoid chaos.
The woman in the poem has "taught [...] most violent ways" through her example and her encouragement. She has not literally taught people to be violent.