WB Yeats: The Second Coming

Today and tomorrow we’ll take a look at two poets view of the second coming; that time that will (theoretically) bring the end of the world (and Nick Cage doing some pretty nifty flying through said destruction (I assume, I haven’t seen the movie)). left_behind_poster1-620x918

We’ll start with WB Yeats and his very Modernist take on the end of the world. As society was coming out of the first world war, it’s easy to see how a lot of people thought we were done for. Yeats does a great job mixing the present and future with allusions of Biblical destruction (of which there were plenty) in his description of the end of times.

Interesting side note: Yeats’ line “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold” was the major inspiration for Chinua Achebe’s great novel Things Fall Apart. 

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 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?
Curious to see the other poems from National Poetry Month? Check out the original post to see an updated list!

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