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The Second Coming William Butler Yeats

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The Second Coming William Butler Yeats

  1. 1. The Second Coming William Butler Yeats
  2. 2. 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.
  3. 3. 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 the 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?
  4. 4. William Butler Yeats • Born in Dublin, Ireland, 1865 • Poet, playwright, philosopher • Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923 • Well known for symbolism employed in his poetry
  5. 5. Symbolism in “The Second Coming” • Symbolic & prophetic vision • Written in 1920 in wake of WWI • In 1939 (World War II) he wrote to a friend “If you have my poems by you, look up a poem called “The Second Coming”. It… foretold what is happening. I have written of the same thing again and again since.”
  6. 6. Central symbol = GYRE • Conical shape consisting of series of ever-widening, connected circles • Repeating trends of history; psychological development, subjectivity vs objectivity, life vs death • An age in history spreads its “ever-widening” influence until it spends its force and ends • Each spiral = 200 years • Beginning of each new gyre brings about chaos and the destruction of the old • Poem describes current historical period (1921) – world on the brink of some apocalyptic revelation
  7. 7. Symbolic Interpretations of Poem 1 432
  8. 8. Introductory Notes • Poem suggests that the Second Coming of Christ instead of bring about good will bring about a state of anarchy on earth • Title is derived from Bible – Matthew 24 and St John’s description of the Beast of the Apocalypse in Revelation • STANZA 1: conditions present in the world, anarchy, things falling apart • STANZA 2: surmise that these conditions foretell of a monstrous Second Coming
  9. 9. Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; We are plunged directly into the poet’s vision – “in medias res” NEW OLD Loss of control and order Links to his theory of cyclical patterns in history IMAGE FROM FALCONRY MAN GOD
  10. 10. Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, oxymoron As the spiral widens, as we move away from the centre, things get more and more out of control The first three lines culminate in a statement that disorder, chaos and anarchy has been unleashed on the world – nothing lies at the centre to hold this together It is unclear who the agent of this action is – some evil power/force
  11. 11. 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. people people = intellectuals = head = think but don’t do = mob = body = act without thinking Lack of experience Goodness Vulnerability Worst people carry out their deeds with great vigour and enthusiasm Interesting that poem was written shortly before WWII and that Yeats considered it prophetic Reference to the blood-filled seas of Revelation
  12. 12. …the worst are full of passionate intensity…
  13. 13. The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.
  14. 14. The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.
  15. 15. Surely some revelation is at hand; Surely the Second Coming is at hand. revolution Call for salvation and redemption – tone of desperation Mankind has reached a point where only divine intervention can save him
  16. 16. The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert Collective spirit of mankind – each human spirit is linked to a single, vast intelligence Uncertainty = threatening
  17. 17. 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. A Sphinx This is Yeats’ new messiah – “a rough beast” – in his play “The Resurrection” he says: “I began to imagine around 1904 as always at my left side just out of range of sight, a brazen winged beast which I associated with laughing, ecstatic destruction….Afterwards described in my poem ‘The Second Coming’ “ Mystic stare/trance – determination of cruel stupidity? 2nd bird image: disturbed by the movement of the sphinx SIMILE Uncertainty = threatening Birds are frantic – have been frightened
  18. 18. The darkness drops again; but now I know That twenty centuries of stony sleep Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, Loses sight of image/vision – begins to think again – now he is filled with dread 20 centuries since the birth of Christ – little progress has been made since – mankind has been asleep
  19. 19. 4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. 7 When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth - Gog and Magog - to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. 9 They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God's people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. 10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. REVELATION 20, VERSES 1 - 5
  20. 20. And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? Lumbers towards Bethlehem – birthplace of Jesus – second messiah Poem ends with a ? – puzzle/riddle – hints at an answer throughout but it is never fully expressed Ugliness, slyness, clumsiness, laziness
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