Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Second Coming

The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats has remained one of my favorite poems for years, and now more than ever his chilling words seem appropriate:


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: a waste of desert sand;
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
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,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Yeats wrote the poem in 1919, in the aftermath of the First World War, but his imagery and themes are universal, and they seem to describe with Nostradamus-like prescience the short history of the 21st Century.

"The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity"... Indeed.

1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember the first stanza being used by Stephen King in one of his Gunslinger novels. Very relevant writing that weathers the test of time.