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Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Second Coming - Yeats (1920)

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?

William Butler Yeats

This poem is just one of a list of 'poems everyone should know' by the crew at At the site you will find notes about content and context, and information about Yeats himself. The other poems on the list are almost predictable - I would have missed the Emily Dickenson one and probably would have featured an older English poem before Whitman - a Milton or Donne sonnet for example. But it is all to do with personal choice, isn't it, with perhaps just a hint of cultural bias. It's all worth looking at, imho.

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