The Second Coming
By William Butler Yeats
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?
About the poem
Yeats began writing this poem in January 1919, in the aftermath of WW I, the Russian Revolution, and political strife in his home country of Ireland. The poem speaks to much more than just political unrest and violence.
Anxiety is conveyed about the social problems of the modern world, upheaval of family and societal structure, loss of purpose, loss of faith, uncertainty, disillusionment and fear.
About the author
William Butler Yeats (1865 – 1939) is considered one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. He belonged to the Protestant, Anglo-Irish minority that had controlled the economic, political, social, and cultural life of Ireland since at least the end of the 17th century. Most members of that minority thought of themselves as English people who just happened to have been born in Ireland. Yeats, however, firmly and repeatedly declared and acknowledged his Irish nationality.
Yeats’ writings were inspired often by Ireland and Irish subjects. He also was fascinated by mysticism, and much of his work was spurred by that. Yeats wanted poetry to engage the full complexity of life. As a poet, he tried to transform the concerns of his own life by expressing them in the universal language of his poetic works.