Tuesday, 10 November 2009

W B Yeats' and The Second Coming

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) wrote The Second Coming in January 1919, around the time of the 1st anniversary of the death of Robert Gregory who was killed in action in Italy in January 1918 and who will be remembered and recalled for posterity via Yates' classic poem An Irish Airman Forsees His Death.

In respect of The Second Coming Yeats notes: "All our scientific, democratic, fact-accumulating, heterogeneous civilisation belongs to the outward gyre and prepares not the continuance of itself but the revelation as in a lightning flash, though in a flash that will not strike only in one place, and will for a time be constantly repeated, of the civilisation that must slowly take its place."

The Second Coming

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 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?

Wm B Yeats (1865-1939)

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