William Butler Yeats

(13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939 / County Dublin / Ireland)

The Second Coming

Poem by William Butler 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 i{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?

Form: Ballad


Comments about The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats

  • Michael WalkerMichael Walker (6/30/2020 9:29:00 PM)

    A critical, but devastating poem about what Yeats made of the modern world. There is anarchy and needless bloodshed, and no hope of a Second Coming of Jesus. Instead:
    ' And what rough beast, its hour come at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? '
    This is largely what I see now in the world.(Report)Reply

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  • Chinedu DikeChinedu Dike (11/8/2019 8:59:00 AM)

    A free flight of creativity on winged immagination. An awesome creation by an intricate and a sober mind.(Report)Reply

    2 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • Michael WalkerMichael Walker (7/27/2019 6:48:00 PM)

    This is definitely one of Yeats' best poems. It is pessimistic but visionary.
    'And what rough beast.../Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? ' Great ending.(Report)Reply

    2 person liked.
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  • Spock The VeganSpock The Vegan (7/14/2019 9:29:00 PM)

    Autoplay takes all the feeling out of the poem - just like my English teacher in High School made us do. What nonsense!(Report)Reply

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  • albert scott (5/4/2019 1:59:00 AM)

    and the number was 666(Report)Reply

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  • Bhagabat Prasad HottaBhagabat Prasad Hotta (11/12/2018 10:17:00 PM)

    So nice poem.............Best poem......So amazing thought.........Beautiful....(Report)Reply

    1 person liked.
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  • Bhagabat Prasad HottaBhagabat Prasad Hotta (11/12/2018 10:17:00 PM)

    So nice poem.............Best poem......So amazing thought.........(Report)Reply

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  • Nicholas Power (10/4/2018 8:48:00 AM)

    a typo in line twelve (italics?) and in the second 'laSt' line(Report)Reply

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  • Larry L. Meyer (8/7/2018 12:12:00 PM)

    Willie had Trump in Mind.(Report)Reply

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  • G. Strazzanti (7/25/2018 6:00:00 AM)

    Autoplay version of these poems is an attempt to kill them. I would send you a record if only I had a way to do that. At least remove those soul lacking voice tracks and simply leave the majestic words.(Report)Reply

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  • Shelvakumari ThachayilShelvakumari Thachayil (5/24/2018 7:14:00 AM)

    The darkness drops again; but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    beautiful thoughts(Report)Reply

    2 person liked.
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  • Russ Weiss (4/14/2018 11:31:00 AM)

    A PERFECT incantatory poem. Definitely has to be read aloud. Perhaps, the source of more allusions in titles of books, editorials, etc. than any other modern poem- obviously not a positive commentary on modern times.(Report)Reply

    3 person liked.
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  • Chinedu DikeChinedu Dike (4/3/2018 7:37:00 PM)

    Fine and lofty verse. Free flight of creativity on winged imagination. A masterful piece of poetry.(Report)Reply

    1 person liked.
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  • Abhimanyu Kumar.sAbhimanyu Kumar.s (11/24/2017 8:34:00 PM)

    There is no replacement for first 4 lines. Truly a great visionary poem.(Report)Reply

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  • Bernard Wenker (8/29/2017 7:34:00 PM)

    The poem was composed in 1939, when WWII was gathering steam. In that sense, I agree with Greg- it IS prescient. In the opening image, the falcon (animal nature, predator) is no longer controlled by the falconer (human, royalty, animal restrainer) has lost control. Yeats saw history, among other things, as cyclical, imaged as gyres whose points touch. In the context of the poem, the dominance of Christianity, of Western Civilization, which, Yeats believes, reached its peak around the 11th century (the peak of Byzantine unity of being) , has lost its intellectual, moral and ethical core.20 centuries- 10 rising to a peak,10 falling to its doom.
    In its place, a new historical cycle begins with the Sphinx- the intellect of a human with the body of the king of the jungle- consummating (shudder in the loins) with an unidentified creature that, impregnated, slouches toward Bethlehem to give birth to a rough beast. This beast will be the personification of the new historical cycle, bringing anarchy and the blood-dimmed tide.
    I don't think Yeats would have named this beast the Antichrist; he was not, after all, a Christian.
    But the birth of the beast, the death and destruction it will bring to fruition communicate a striking irony for Christians, for whom The Second Coming of Christ is a time of salvation and rebirth.(Report)Reply

    7 person liked.
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  • Greg BellGreg Bell (8/17/2017 8:44:00 PM)

    This poem was written in the aftermath of WW-1, and it has all the harrowing qualities one might expect in the aftermath of 'The War to End All War.' Sad, innit, that we haven't progressed beyond the point where we could consider this a marvelous antique artifact. It's ahead of its time and prescient, just as fresh and true today as ever it was.

    Certainly one of my favorites, I consider it one of the best poems ever written in the English language - really, in ANY language!(Report)Reply

    4 person liked.
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  • Ray Burleigh (4/23/2016 5:19:00 AM)

    There is nothing like it in the language except whole plays by William Shakespeare. You better read it again.
    The last two lines, so perfect as to be judged miracles. This is us he is talking about. Prophet, seer, priest of the church of love and nature. Arise with him and go to innesfree.(Report)Reply

    4 person liked.
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  • Susan WilliamsSusan Williams (4/20/2016 5:47:00 PM)

    Intense, intelligent, imaginative- Yeats was indeed a master poet and this poem of his hits the reader like a freight train. And the freight on that train has a lot to do with the evils of war and society and Christ.. The language is actually pretty direct and blunt, but then he throws in a multitude of symbols and visions and prophecies so we're left with nothing that is blunt and straight-forward. We're just not going to get out of this poem without doing some thinking. For me, it is the latter lines that grow extremely nightmarish. That sphinx in the desert. Could he really think that is Jesus? Could whatever it is be good or evil or just plain indifferent about the fate of mankind..
    These lines are the ones that chill me to the bone- they force me to ask myself is this the coming of the Antichrist? . - - - ]
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at laSt,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?(Report)Reply

    Malfleur(11/14/2017 4:52:00 AM)

    That sphinx in the desert? Ozymandias?

    12 person liked.
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  • Enoch JohnEnoch John (3/9/2016 3:36:00 PM)

    my favourite Yeats poem.(Report)Reply

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  • * Sunprincess * (1/14/2016 2:52:00 PM)

    .....an interesting write with incredible imagery ★(Report)Reply

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Read poems about / on: innocence, sleep, sun, world



Poem Submitted: Thursday, May 17, 2001

Poem Edited: Thursday, May 17, 2001