12 April 2013

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: 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?

-- William Butler Yeats


Rae said...

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

So true of today's political/cultural climate!

Rae said...

Thank you for posting this poem-- which means so much more to me now than when I first encountered it! While of course the celebrated line is "Things fall apart; the center cannot hold," I'm now struck with other phrases, other images: "The falcon cannot hear the falconer... The blood-dimmed tide is loosed..."

In high school I was too naively optimistic (one might say) to fear the "vast image out of Spiritus Mundi," but in middle age I feel the nagging dread of it.

Anonymous said...

Stop scaring me!

StGuyFawkes said...

Yeats dabbled in fascism and the occult. He knew Aleister Crowley personally and experimented with automatic writing. He came by his vision of an anti-Christ honestly you might say. Nonetheless he turned away from the worship of old pagan mythologies in time and the fact that he did so is part of his glory. With regards to the falcon imagery we might place beside Yeat's poem this by Gerard Manley Hopkins which also centers on a falcon.

The Windhover

To Christ our Lord

I CAUGHT this morning morning’s minion, kingdom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding

Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding

Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,

Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.