I was going to do something about the end of the world and poetry, given the whole the world’s supposed to end on the solstice thing going around and the fact that there’s enough poetry to play with on that theme. This one was first on my list.


The Second Coming

by W.B. Yeats

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?


Last week when I was playing with the idea I wrote in my original introduction “It was always the first stanza of this one that gets me, the images are mythic and yet visible in any day-right at the corner of your vision watching the news. I think that’s just the human condition, a kind of timeless fear. “The worst/Are full of passionate intensity.” ” Uhm, yeah. This feels a little too timely now, and I don’t even know what to write about it anymore. But it also felt like a cheat to skip Yeats…

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