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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 about.com:poetry crew at http://poetry.about.com/od/poems/l/blyeatssecondcoming.htm 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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