Monday, June 27, 2011

Yeats: The Second Coming (1919)

My favorite poem. Yeats understood the 20th century, which began on August 2, 1914.


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: a waste of desert sand;
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
Wind 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?

A remarkable insight...

"The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."

... to have understood the Anglican Communion, and the Pharyngula combox, a century ago.


  1. Perhaps you should remember he also said "Once you attempt legislation upon religious grounds, you open the way for every kind of intolerance and religious persecution" but that's more difficult for you to distort to support your opinions.

  2. Anon, (paulmurray?)
    You seem to have all this quite backwards. I really do suggest you read some Yeats, or something about the man before trying to co-opt him as some sort of progressive Atheist.
    OF COURSE he believed in freedom of religion - he was a CHRISTIAN.
    Christ commands that we 'render unto Caesar'. The separation of the Law from The Church is essential/central doctrine. Sure it has been abused and cast aside and then rectified BY Christians.
    Context my young friend ...CONTEXT!

    I was raised in the High Church as a boy, and our services were almost identical to the Roman Church. In fact, we were instructed to go to a RC Church if we could not find a "Catholic Anglican" one while on our travels. Due to that fact I have spent many a mass in RC Churches and Cathedrals. These days, while I have my own Church (high) that I attend, I do find myself at prayer in ANY house of God I see fit. But I still love my Evensong at 'home'.
    All that said, I feel the same way as our prescient poet.
    Passion seems to be the province of the most simple and reductionist takes on the Faith, while the traditional churches come off as almost academic. Benedict, thank God, seems to be breathing some life into the RCC here in Canada, and a Schism is brewing way in my own Denomination for OBVIOUS reasons.... so perhaps some passion remains.
    Fascinating stuff, though Mike.
    Love the Yeats!
    For my own part...
    I would And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Mc Donalds to have breakfast?"

    Will catch up later.
    Love the blog!

  3. crusadeRex,

    I am a convert (from agnosticism/atheism) about 7 years ago. I would have chosen the High Church or the Orthodox Church if I had not become a Catholic. Once I felt the Real Presence, though, I was hooked.

    Thanks for your superb comments.



  4. Mike,

    My pleasure.
    Thanks for a blog worthy of comment!