The Second Coming
by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) (also his second appearance here)
Turning and turning in the widening gyreThe Second Coming is an antiwar poem written by Yeats after the end of the First World War. It is considered a major work or Modernist Poetry, and you'll not that the last line springboards into a book title, Slouching Towards Bethlemem , a 1958 collection of essays by the excellent stylist (and one of my favorite authors), Joan Didion, which I highly recommend that you read as well.
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?
Even though it was written nearly 100 year ago, the poem still retains a profound resonance to the events of this century: "The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity..."
This is one my favorite poems.