The Second Coming

The Second Coming

by William Butler Yeats

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: somewhere in 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?

Summary of The Second Coming

  • Popularity: “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats, a legendary Irish poet, is the most robbed piece of literature due to its heavily used or borrowed title, lines or phrases. It was first published in The Dial in 1920. The poem deals with the subjects of political, spiritual and cultural decay and regeneration. The poet prophesizes that some sort of “the Second Coming is arriving”, and the anarchy in the world foreshadows it is not very far. The popularity of the poem rests on the fact that it has resonated through all the cultural decays across the globe since its publication.
  • “The Second Coming” as Commentary on the Changing World: As this poem is about the changing nature of the world, the poet says that the world is constantly altered through violence and chaos. Comparing the world with the widening gyre, he says that this changing world is made up of interlocking circles constantly spinning and expanding to catalyze their existence. He argues that, due to this change, humanity has become disillusioned, and has loosened away from its center. This distance, in turn, liberates the people from their ancient traditions and conventions. Also, it pushes them into a new era of freedom and new opportunities. That is why the center of the world is falling apart, which will eventually lead humanity to more destructive situations. Hence, the poet also prophesizes that there’s a monster looming in the future, which is constantly paving its way to reach this dismantled world.
  • Major Themes of “The Second Coming”: Violence, prophecy, and meaninglessness are the major themes foregrounded in this poem. Yeats emphasizes that the present world is falling apart, and a new ominous reality is going to emerge. The idea of “the Second Coming” is not Biblical. To him, the Second Coming is not a savior that is going to restore the business of humanity, but a sphinx that will add more to the agony and destruction of the world. He argues that people are moving away from the center and there is no hope in the future due to the chaos. And those, who wish for any spiritual guidance, are living in fool’s paradise.

Analysis of Literary Devices in “The Second Coming”

Literary devices are tools the writers use to convey emotions, ideas, and beliefs. With the help of these devices, they make their texts appealing to the reader. Yeats has also employed some literary devices in this poem to prophesize the future of the world. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been stated below.

  1. Metaphor: There are several metaphors used in this poem such as, “the Falcon” and “the falconer,” which stands for the world and the controlling force that directs humanity. Similarly, “the blood-dimmed tide” stands for waves of violence, while “the rough beast” stands for “the Second Coming.”
  2. Hyperbole: Hyperbole is a device used to exaggerate a statement for the sake of emphasis. The poet has used hyperbole in the tenth line where it is stated as, “Surely the Second Coming is at hand,” as if the beast is about to enter the world in just a few hours or days.
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /r/ in “Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle.”
  4. Allusion: Allusion is an indirect reference to a person, place, thing or idea of a historical, cultural political or literary significance in a literary piece. The use of illusion in the fourth line of the second stanza is “the spiritus” It is an illusion to the Latin phrase meaning the world’s soul. “The Second Coming” is also a biblical allusion to the return of Christ.
  5. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /s/ in “Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the” and /n/ sound in “The darkness drops again; but now I know.”
  6. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. Yeats has used multiple symbols such as, “falcon” as the symbol of the world, “desert birds” are the symbols of approaching death and “the Second Coming” symbolizes the indifference.
  7. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of same vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /i/ in “Turning and turning in the widening gyre” and /e/ sound in “The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
  8. Imagery: Imagery means the use of images of the five senses intended to make the readers understand the writer’s feelings and emotions. Yeats has used imagery to present the vivid and clear picture of the ominous beast such as, “A shape with lion body and the head of a man”, “somewhere in sands of the desert” and “Is moving its slow thighs.”

The literary analysis shows that Yeats has skillfully used some literary devices to discuss the reason why the world is going astray. The effective use of these devices and clarity of subject matter have made the poem thoughtful for the readers.

Analysis of Poetic Devices in “The Second Coming”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are only two stanzas in this poem.
  2. Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows ABBA CDDC throughout the poem with iambic pentameter.
  3. Iambic Pentameter: It is a type of meter consisting of five iambs. This poem comprises iambic pentameter For Example, “Turning and turning in the widening gyre.”

Quotes to be Used

These lines can be used in a speech to describe the present condition of the world. They also could be used to express a personal point of view about the mismanagement and malfunctioning of the center of the world, which has allowed the worse to prevail.

“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.”