Anyone who knows Yeats knows "The Second Coming." Well, I hope so, at least. Yes, line three is alluded to in the title of Chinua Achebe's novel Things Fall Apart, proving that awesomeness knows no cultural boundaries; yes, there are falcons in it; and the phrase "mere anarchy" is enough to make the blood pulse through my veins with renewed vigor (thank you, litotes); but more than all of this, "The Second Coming" stands the test of time because it's an astute observation of chaos in any time when hope seems irrelevant. The well intentioned actions most desired - namely, revolution in any manifestation - will not be one we can predict or even necessarily enjoy should it come. But when Yeats writes, it all melts away into the impotent bleetings of so many sheep without leaving one feeling empty. "The Second Coming" is dark, disarming, and rather self-indulgent in terms of hopelessness. But if art reflects life, it should be done without flinching, wouldn't you agree?
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
THE SECOND COMING
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?