Between the symbolism and allusions, the poem covers the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelations. In the first stanza, “mere anarchy” refers to the flood in Genesis.
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He uses a metaphor to allude to the Great Sphinx (The body of a lion and the head of a man), which symbolizes the devil’s home. Furthermore, this is also a reference to the Book of Exodus, which describes the morphing of locusts and scorpion’s tails. These layers of meaning make it difficult for high school students to interpret the poem. I suggest that a teacher start with eight vocabulary words: gyre, vexed, anarchy, revelation, falconer, Spiritus Mundi, reel, indignant. Denote the text. Then discover all the metaphors and symbols. It takes quite a bit of research to connote “gyre”.
The dictionary definition is simple, but Yeats uses gyre in many of his writings. He uses a double-helix to symbolize the spiraling decay of society through “blood-dimmed tides” or wars. Then he uses the upward spiral to symbolize the times of peace. For Yeats society was a never-ending cycle of war and peace. From there he takes us to medieval times, to a violent, but orderly sport of hunting, until the falcon cannot hear the falconer and it turns into chaotic, unreasonable violence
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