This poem by Yeats is very dark indeed. Yeats lived from 1865 to 1939 – some of those days must have seemed apocalyptic to many. In spite of the problems in our world, though, we continue to live in hope. Advent is the time of looking for that hope, and the symbol is the birth of a tiny and vulnerable child. And so I repeat the use of an image that I created months ago and posted here on March 7th, during Lent. And try as I might, I can’t find amongst my photos anything that captures the sense of the Yeats’ poem better than this.
The Second Coming
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 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?