August 22, 2011

From Gerald R. Lucas
(Redirected from The Second Coming)
The Second Coming[1]
By: W. B. 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 5
The ceremony of innocence[2] is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.[3]

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand. 10
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi[4]
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun, 15
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind 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,[5] 20
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

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  1. This poem expresses Yeats’ idea that civilization is cyclical, and that each age, or “gyre” of history, is followed by another turn or spiral.
  2. Ritual, in Yeats’ view, is the foundation of civilization.
  3. Yeats had the Russian Revolution in mind in lines 4–8, yet they resonate today, as well.
  4. The spirit of the universe. Yeats believed that all souls were connected through this great memory. It is also the source of inspiration for the poet.
  5. This is the cradle of the newborn Jesus Christ.