Thursday, 26 April 2007

The Second Coming

William Butler Yeats, (1865-1939)


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 convictions, 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?


  1. Oh, a favourite. Thank you.

    I also love this ....He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven

    HAD I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
    Enwrought with golden and silver light,
    The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
    Of night and light and the half-light,
    I would spread the cloths under your feet:
    But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
    I have spread my dreams under your feet;
    Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

  2. A favourite of mine also.
    I was going to give you the link to where I posted it, ages ago...
    But? Guess what? I never posted it, shared it with a friend, but never posted it.
    Only recently, buying a ragged book of poems in a charity shop, I discovered the poem has another title:- Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven. There are several Aedhs in Irish history/mythology.
    One in particular stands out, a prince, handome, charming, a warrior, a poet, a harper, a lover, although Yeats could have been referring to his father, or several others, this Aedh is the one i see, spreading his dreams before his lady's feet.

    And, this book I found being a battered old schoolbook, it alerted me to something I had, incredibly, never noted. That all the rhymes in the poem are simply with themselves.
    cloths=cloths, light=light etc.
    I looked again, stunned. how could I have missed that?

    Second Coming.
    I first came upon this poem after reading Chinua Achebe's 'Things Fall apart'
    As a potter, my life has oft been focused on the forces of rotation, on symettry and control struggling against chaos and anarchy. T.S.Eliot said it too- 'At the still point of the turning world', my zen-place from which, in calm, I observe chaos.
    So this poem, the Second Coming, has, for me, all its best in the first few lines and the last few.
    Yeats wrote it as the first world war spiralled out of control, as civilisation and enlightenment once more were ripped asunder, as the brightest and the best of a generation were fed into a chaos of filth, violence, bood and death.
    In his own Ireland, a bloody uprising, setting brother against brother, spilling hatreds....
    what rough beast, indeed had been unleashed? what promise for the future?

  3. dammit, i just left a very long comment and botched it...Water baby and I like "The stolen child" and a friend of mine Kissyface posted the one you refer to at the bottom of your comment concerning the beast and the Irish uprising. she also had a question it seemed concerning "Aedh" a while back and I shall send her your way, if she would like, for a little British (is that part of what you are, mate?)and I hope I haven't offended by saying that being unfamiliar ad unwise concerning the slurs that ya'll have over
    there. Skol!

  4. I am waiting for a new age of lyricism. How much longer?

  5. Yes Steve, send her with her questions...
    I like the Stolen Child too, well, I like Yeats, I suppose.
    I am indeed British, it is no slur to me.
    Skol, well, there's an interesting one.
    From old norse, skala, skull.
    norse warriors drank from bowls made out of the craniums of their vanquished foes.
    I prefer a glass.

    Princess Haiku!
    Always delighted to have royalty visit.
    The new age of lyricism is probably here but unnoticed.
    Me, I'm no poet.


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