The significance of title “No Second Troy”


The poem “No Second Troy”, published in the collection of “The Green Helmet” and other poems in (1910) volume, is an ambiguous poem by William Butler Yeats in which the celebration of Amazonian female agency and power is qualified by the poet’s restriction on the exercise of that power. The subject of the poem is the “unrequited love” of the poet for Maud Gonne, the beautiful and Irish nationalist fire brand, from whom he met in 1989 and instantly fell in love with her.

Though she was Yeats’s friend, and collaborated with him as an 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. After her husband Major John MacBride’s death in the 1916, Easter uprising, Yeats again proposed to Goner, hoping that she might accept his love, but she again turned down his proposal. There upon, he proposed to her daughter, but was to be disappointed yet again.

Significance of Title

The title gives unity to the thought of the poem. The poem is 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 beautifully and noble, Ireland id not the place she deserved, as it would not be truly inspired as Troy was by Helen. There would be “No Second Troy”.


The poem seems to be divided into two parts; the first part deals more in the empirical realm (from emotional pain to political defiance and outrage), the second part veer off into the ethereal, and apocalyptic, world of ancient Troy and its Helen. The phrase “why should I blame her that she filled my days with misery” describes the pain of Yeats’s unrequited love. Also, Yeats exalts his would be love by etherealizing her as above what he condemns in his own time (not natural in such age and being high solitary) and predicates upon her qualities of a goddess (like; peaceful, noble, beauty) even a warrior goddess (like; fire, like a tightened bow, most stern). In the last two lines, containing the third and fourth rhetorical questions, the poet makes explicit her comparison with her with Helen of Troy, but regrets metaphorically that Ireland was no Troy to burn for Maud Gonne, as Troy had done for Helen.

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 thee little streets upon the great,

       Had they but courage equal to desire,

The juxtaposition of the images “little street” and “the great” confirms Yeats faith in the aristocratic lineage, and his enthusiasm for the traditional Irish society under the protection of the aristocratic lords. Therefore, the agents of nationalism 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 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,

As pure “as fire” and ger physical beauty “like a tightened bow” are the exalted nature of her mind that give her superiority over the crowd, and make her presence out of place “in an age like this”. In the simile “beauty like a tightened bow”, the word ‘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.

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