Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Second Coming

This week has been a hard one for my family, so I think I can be forgiven for not wanting to make a substantial blog entry tonight. Instead, I thought I would post one of my favourite poems by one of my favourite poets, William Butler Yeats. Yeats was a complex figure whose interests included myth, folklore, the theatre, mysticism, and even magic (he was head of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn for a time).

My favourite poem by Yeats is "The Second Coming." The poem was inspired by the Russian Revolution of 1917. He viewed the revolution as a threat to the aristocracy, a class which he held close to his heart. Among his poems, it is perhaps the one most influenced by his interest in mysticism.

"The Second Coming"
by William Butler Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center 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?

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