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Things Fall Apart

November 1, 2011
William Butler Yeats, Irish poet

Image via Wikipedia

This is a poem for our times, and it comes from a time of similar turmoil and uncertainty: William Butler Yeats in the aftermath of World War I and the Russian Revolution.

Here is the backstory, but read the poem first so the words are free of historical context.


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?

What do you think? What rough beast, its hour come round at last, is about to be born?

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