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Daniel Blanchard The Second Coming Summary: This poem reflects on the current state of the world and

envisions what the future will bring. Moreover, it explores the collapsing order of the world and society and interprets this through Yeatss theory of history and the universe. The first stanza describes the current state of the world. Yates states that The falcon cannot hear the falconer as it flies in a widening gyre. He goes on to state that Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold and that Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world because The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/ The ceremony of innocence is drowned. He ends the stanza by stating that The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity. The second stanza begins by stating that Surely some revelation is at hand;/Surely the Second Coming is at hand. He goes on to describe a vision, evoked by his thoughts on the Second Coming, out of Spiritus Mundi of a sphinx with A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun awakening from That twenty centuries of stony sleep. Yeats ends the poem by asking And what rough beast, its hour come round at last/ Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Analysis: Yeats wrote this poem in January of 1919, directly after World War 1 and the Russian Revolution. This was a time of death, destruction, and great upheaval of cultural and societal norms. Yeats believed that this was a sign that a new age was dawning. Yeats believed that history and the world itself behaved cyclically, resembling a spiraling motion in the shape of a cone. When one of these gyres reached its point of greatest expansion and another one reaches its point of greatest contraction, then a new age is signaled by violent upheaval. Yeats took the recent war and revolution to mean that the two thousand year long age of christianity was ending. The first stanza begins with the statement that Turning and turning in the widening gyre/ The falcon cannot hear the falconer. Yeats uses the word gyre to tell the reader that the relationship between falcon and falconer has historical significance. Taken in a political context, it could represent the relationship between the fading aristocracy, the falconer, and the rising proletariate, the falcon. Societies were changing at this time, and, on the rising gyre of history, the elites found that they could no longer control those they had once commanded. Yeats continues by stating that Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;/ Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. He means that the current era is falling apart and

that societies and cultures are dying out. The previously prevalent social order is breaking down and there is nothing to replace it but anarchy. He goes on to say that The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/ The ceremony of innocence is drowned. This might be a reference to World War I. The war is the blood-dimmed tide, where the people, blinded by blood lust, produce a tide war that is drowning society. The term ceremony of innocence can have several meanings. Taken politically, as the word ceremony can mean a socially constructed ritual between superiors and inferiors, the ceremony of innocence can be the social order between the ruling aristocracy and the peasant classes which has been shattered in the bloody tide of war. The term could also mean the social convention that society uses to protect its children from the dangers of the world and that their innocence has been drowned in the aftermath of a brutal war. He concludes the first stanza by stating that The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity. This reinforces the previous lines cultural examinations. The aristocracy, the best, have been shaken by World War I and question their right to rule while the proletariate, the worst, is impassioned and revolting against their rulers, as seen in the Russian Revolution. It could also mean that the righteous and worthy of society are inactive and allowing the evil in society to flourish.

The second stanza explores a vision that Yeats has about the coming age. He begins by stating that Surely some revelation is at hand, establishing that a new age must be on the way. After merely stating the phrase Second Coming, he sees a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi of a sphinx with A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun awakening from That twenty centuries of stony sleep surrounded by reeling shadows of the indignant desert birds. He receives this vision from the collective unconscious of humanity. This vision, representing the character of the new age, is one of a sphinx that has been sleeping for two thousand years and is just now awakening. It represents the end of the christian era and the beginning of an era characterized by a A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun. He ends the second stanza by asking And what rough beast, its hour come round at last/ Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? He states that the beast will be born in bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth as a way to imply that this new age will be of comparable length and importance to the christian era. The importance of him ending the poem with a question is that it undermines the more firm declarations he states previously, as if he might be wondering if, despite his clear vision, he can truly be sure of the character of this age.