The Second Coming

by WB Yeats   1919

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born.

[Suggested by Giovanna Visconti] __________________________________________________
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2 Responses to The Second Coming

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    We had that at some point in high school. It’s a good poem to know, not only in its own right, but as a source of cultural references. Of course, “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold” is commonly cited, and “the best lack all conviction; the worst are full of passionate intensity” also shows up occasionally. Many will recall Robert Bork’s book Slouching Toward Gomorrah. In addition, Peter De Vries once wrote a satire titled Slouching Toward Kalamazoo.

    • Giovanna Visconti says:

      I never encountered it in school, but because Tennyson and Shakespeare “turned me on” to poetry, I rummaged around in later years, after school, and found Yeats–and others.

      It’s a spectacularly, almost “visual” presentation! And, unfortunately, it is SO applicable today!

      “Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
      The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
      The ceremony of innocence is drowned;…”

      The Middle East…

      “…somewhere in sands of the desert
      A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
      A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
      Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
      Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
      The darkness drops again;…

      The destructiveness of the fascist state…somehow “a gaze blank and pitiless as the sun” always makes me think of “Obamandias” (as Steyn once called him), although he’s only the “front man” for the “shape with lion body and the head of a man.

      And the “twenty centuries of stony sleep” remain. As Steyn said, we’ve hit the alarm button and decided to sleep in for another 10 years!

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