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

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

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

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

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

  • (10/4/2018 8:48:00 AM)

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

  • (8/7/2018 12:12:00 PM)

    Willie had Trump in Mind. (Report) Reply

  • (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

  • Shelva Suresh 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

  • (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

  • Chinedu 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

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

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

  • (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

  • Greg 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

  • (4/23/2016 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

  • Susan 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

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

    That sphinx in the desert? Ozymandias?

  • Enoch John (3/9/2016 3:36:00 PM)

    my favourite Yeats poem. (Report) Reply

  • (1/14/2016 2:52:00 PM)

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

  • (12/30/2015 4:54:00 PM)

    Yeats the master at work! (Report) Reply

  • (9/16/2015 5:46:00 PM)

    This is one of my favourite poems. Yeats is a genius (Report) Reply

  • (6/28/2015 9:56:00 PM)

    I think this describes perfectly our age as if William Yates is living with us. Truly an immortal poem. (Report) Reply

  • (4/22/2015 6:25:00 PM)

    This poem was one of the poems i loved in my early years. Anytime I read it, it brings reminisces of past sweetness. (Report) Reply

  • Xelam Kan™ (3/25/2015 8:33:00 PM)

    Yeats finds something irritates its mind- to be or not to be- slightly a touch of divinr agnosticisn i have felt in this poor pal...form is closely related to modernist. i was young and a bit divine too when first time i read this poem. but the world and its meaning has changed alot, so........ (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

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