Wednesday, February 16, 2011

second coming

W . B . Yeats - The Second Coming
Revised 14 November 2009
Turning and turning in the widening
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
The ceremony of innocence is
The best lack all conviction , while the
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 Spritus
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
The darkness drops again ; but now I
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 ?
My Interpretation :
Yeats wrote The Second Coming while Europe and
much of the rest of the world was trying to
recover from World War I . This was surely an
important factor for him in writing the poem .
Yeats saw great social troubles all around him,
and remarks on a world spinning out of control.
Line 2 hints at technology progressing beyond
mankind ' s ability to control it . The problem was
evident to Yeats 80 years ago , and the problem
has worsened since then . Yeats shows his concern
that technology has advanced to the point where
mankind can do a great deal of harm with relative
ease . The world had never seen destruction of the
likes of World War I , and most people were
shocked at the extensive loss of human life during
the war .
In the time that Yeats speaks of , the rulers of the
world were caught up in imperialism and
expanding circles of power to the point where
they would do almost anything to accomplish
their goals . The ruthless power mongers were
outspoken and numerous , and there seemed to
be few who dared to speak out against them in
the name of peace .
At one point , I had stated here that Spiritus
Mundi is a Medieval text for Christians , to inform
them what they need to do to die in the grace of
God . It is essentially "the art of dying well . " At
this point , I must offer sincere apologies . I must
have been severely confused ( and have a memory
lapse ) when I wrote that , because the text that
deals with the art of dying well is in fact "Ars
Moriendi ". Spiritus Mundi is literally " Spirit of the
World . " In order to avoid making another stupid
mistake , I will refrain from comment on the
meaning of Spiritus Mundi for the time- being.
Nevertheless , I believe Spiritus Mundi leads Yeats
to propose that perhaps the Second Coming ( of
Christ ) is near at hand: Judgement Day . . . . the
end of the world .
Spiritus Mundi brings an image of the sphinx to
Yeats ' mind . Yeats sees the sphinx rising up to
bring forth the end of the world . The sphinx slept
in a world of nightmares for 2000 years. The
nightmares were caused by the turmoils of the
human race ( line 20 ) . The indignant desert birds
( line 17 ) ( a . k . a . humans who foresee the Second
Coming ) try to stop the sphinx ( the end of the
world ) , but their task is impossible . In the end ,
Yeats reveals no hope for the continued existence
of mankind .
Comments by Martin Cothran :
I had an angle on this that occurred to me when
re - reading it recently . Notice how Yeats begins
the poem in the present time, 2 , 000 years after
the birth of Christ . Yet in the second stanza, he
shifts to the past, and talks about the beast
having slept for 2 ,000 years, and all of a sudden
the present is 2 , 000 years ago at the birth of
Christ . Yeats seems to conflate the two mirroring
2 , 000 year periods into one time. He seems to be
using a literal image of the beast, awakening after
a 2 , 000 year slumber at the first coming of Christ ,
as some sort of metaphorical picture what is
happening at His second coming , with the 2 , 000
years of slumber referring simultaneously to both
2 , 000 year periods - - but one literally , and the
other figuratively . I haven 't thought this all the
way through , but it is a haunting apocalyptic
vision , to say the least.
Comments are by R . P. Greenish:
I very much enjoyed reading your comments on
' The Second Coming ' by W . B. Yeats , but , although
very much valid , I think that your views fail to
explore the deeper meanings of the poem . Having
read Yeats ' ' A Vision' , a book written by him
about his views on the world and how time
progresses , I am very much familiar with his ideas
and beliefs . This poem is obviously written with
these ideas in mind :
The falcon in the second line, turning and turning
in the widening gyre , represents the ' gyres' or
cones that Yeats refers to in his book. These
govern the progression of time and the human
race , and can be represented by the 28 phases of
the moon . 2000 years ago was the beginning of a
new cycle, Christ was born at exactly the right
time to have a perfect soul , and now we reach the
end of the cycle, nearing the end of the 28 th
phase , about to start again . Yeats inagines the
rebirth of Christ as the start of the new cycle, and
the revolution at hand in the rebirth of the human
race . Your analysis of the poem fits in with the
end of the cycle when the gyres dictate that we
will behave as we do and cause what is happening
in the world , i . e . - wars and destruction , and
ultimately our end .
I would advise that you read this book if you are
interested in Yeats , and also some of his other
poetry - ' The gyres ', ' Sailing to Byzantium' ,
' Death' , ' He thinks of his past greatness when a
part of the constellations of heaven' . All these
poems are strongly related to the views that he
describes in his book.
Comments by Ana Horvat, LLM :
I 'd like to share with you one of my own insights
into the "Second Coming " poem , which I
stumbled across only after I read Chinua Achebe ' s
"Things fall apart ". I believe the concept of
"Spiritus Mundi", or as you translated it "the Spirit
of the World ", is nothing else but today ' s concept
of collective unconscious, given to us by the work
of the great Freud' s disciple, Jung . I don not know
if you' re familiar with his idea of collective
unconscious, it has much in common with the
theory of linguistic structuralism of Chomsky and
Levi - Strauss , but it would fit very nicely to
interpret the "Spiritus Mundi " syntagm as part of
this idea ( as something as an archetype idea , as is
also the falcon in the beginning of the poem ) .

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