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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: 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?

"The Second Coming" is a poem written by Irish poet W. B. Yeats in 1919, first printed in The Dial in November 1920, and afterwards included in his 1921 collection of verses Michael Robartes and the Dancer. The poem uses Christian imagery regarding the Apocalypse and Second Coming allegorically to describe the atmosphere of post-war Europe.[1] The poem is considered a major work of Modernist poetry and has been reprinted in several collections, including The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry.[2]


Historical contextEdit

The poem was written in 1919 in the aftermath of the First World War[3] and the beginning of the Irish War of Independence that followed the Easter Rising, at a time before the British Government decided to send in the Black and Tans to Ireland. Yeats used the phrase "the second birth" instead of "the Second Coming" in his first drafts.[4]


Phrases and lines from the poem are used in many works. Several novels, songs, TV episodes, and albums draw their title from "The Second Coming" (e.g. Chinua Achebe's 1958 novel Things Fall Apart, Elyn Saks's 2007 autobiography The Center Cannot Hold, Joan Didion's 1968 essay collection Slouching Towards Bethlehem and Robert B. Parker's 1983 Novel The Widening Gyre).

A 2016 analysis by Factiva showed that lines from the poem were quoted more often in the first seven months of 2016 than in any of the preceding 30 years[5] in the context of political turmoil after the Brexit referendum and Donald Trump's election with commentators repeatedly invoking its lines: "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold."[6]


  1. ^ Albright, Daniel. "Quantum Poetics: Yeats's figures as reflections in Water", Cambridge University Press (1997), p. 35.
  2. ^ Childs, Peter (2007). Modernism. The New Critical Idiom (2nd ed.). Routledge. p. 39. ISBN 978-0415415460. 
  3. ^ Haughey, Jim (2002). The First World War in Irish Poetry. Bucknell University Press. p. 161. ISBN 9781611481518. 
  4. ^ Deane, Seamus (1998). "Boredom and Apocalypse". Strange Country: Modernity and Nationhood in Irish Writing Since 1790. Clarendon lectures in English literature. Clarendon Press. p. 179. ISBN 9780198184904. 
  5. ^ "Terror, Brexit and U.S. Election Have Made 2016 the Year of Yeats" by Ed Ballard, The Wall Street Journal, 23 August 2016
  6. ^ Kakutani, Michiko (13 February 2017). "A World in Disarray Is a Calm Look at a Chaotic Global Order". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 February 2017. , review of Richard N. Haass' book

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