For the very first time, our usually prosaic
Sightings column gives space this week to a poem, one rich in metaphor. It was written in 1919, but is seen as newly relevant.
* * *
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?
—W. B. Yeats, “The Second Coming”
- Doggett, Rob. Deep-Rooted Things: Empire and Nation in the Poetry and Drama of William Butler Yeats
. University of Notre Dame Press, 2006.
- Foster, R. F. W. B. Yeats: A Life, Vol. 1: The Apprentice Mage
. Oxford University Press, 1997.
- —. W. B. Yeats: A Life, Vol. 2: The Arch-Poet.
Oxford University Press, 2003.
- Howes, Marjorie. Yeats's Nations: Gender, Class and Irishness
. Cambridge University Press, 1996.
- Owen, Alex. The Place of Enchantment: British Occultism and the Culture of the Modern
. University of Chicago Press, 2004.
- Smith, Stan. The Origins of Modernism: Eliot, Pound, Yeats and the Rhetorics of Renewal
. Harvester, 1994.
- Yeats, W. B. The Collected Works of W. B. Yeats, Vol. 1: The Poems
. Ed. Richard J. Finneran. Scribner, 1997.