William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) is a prominent poet who blends mythology with the modern world. In his iconic poem, “No Second Troy” Maud Gonne is constantly compared to the mythical character Helen of Troy, whose beauty led to the 9 years long the Trojan War. ‘No Second Troy’ makes Maud Gonne a symbol of nobility of a passed heroic age, and so sets up an image to which the present might aspire.
More Notes: W B Yeats
If the title were “No Second Chances,” it could be a great motivational poem to the readers. But, the real title, “No Second Troy,” alludes to ancient Greek history. The destruction of Troy, as depicted in Homer’s Iliad and Virgil’s Aeneid, is perhaps the most famous epic event in Western literature. Yeats knew his Greek history out and out. So, by this symbolic title, we are not too surprised.
More Notes: Suggestions
Funny thing is, neither Troy nor the ancient Greeks are mentioned specifically until the last line of the poem. By the end, the reader is expected to know that Yeats is comparing the female figure in the poem to the notorious Helen of Troy. The title is something of a joke. The speaker is saying that if there had only been another Troy to burn, Maud Gonne wouldn’t have needed to cause so much trouble in Ireland. Sadly, for the speaker and his country, there are no ancient cities lying around in need of a good burn-in.
Comparing Maud Gonne with Helen, Yeats says though she is equally beautiful and noble, Ireland is not the place she deserved, as it would not be truly inspired as Troy was by Helen. There would be “No Second Troy”. So, the title is out and out appropriate.