In Greek mythology, Helen of Troy was a beauty beyond the natural world. A love quarrel over Helen brought on the Trojan War and the destruction of Troy. In this poem, Yeats draws parallels to Helen as he describes a woman through a series of rhetorical questions.
“No Second Troy”
by William Butler Yeats
WHY should I blame her that she filled my days
With misery, or that she would of late
Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,
Or hurled the little streets upon the great,
Had they but courage equal to desire?
What could have made her peaceful with a mind
That nobleness made simple as a fire,
With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind
That is not natural in an age like this,
Being high and solitary and most stern?
Why, what could she have done being what she is?
Was there another Troy for her to burn?
It is hard to say if “No Second Troy” is more a compliment or an insult. It certainly teeters the line. On the one hand, the woman is described as a Greek beauty: fiery, stern and noble. On the other hand, that fire can only destroy; that tightened bow can only release. If she (Helen) was not busy destroying Yates (Troy), what else could she be doing? What else would you expect from that fire, beyond inciting violence and riots in the streets?
“Was there another Troy for her to burn?”
Was there another Yates for her to make miserable? The poem ends by coming full circle with the title– almost like a punchline. She must take her fire elsewhere. There is no more of him left for her to burn.