“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…”
In a 1936 letter to a friend, Yeats said that the poem was ‘written some 16 or 17 years ago and foretold what is happening‘, that is, Yeats poetically predicted the rise of a rough beast that manifested as chaos and upheaval in the form of Nazism and Fascism, bringing Europe to its knees.
From POEM ANALYSIS:
At the time of The Second Coming being written, much of the world had grown disillusioned with the turn of the century. From ushering in new and wonderful inventions – the motorcar, small aircraft, and others – it had gone to fray apart. In different parts of the world, revolution brewed and broke out: the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Easter Uprising of 1916, and, of course, the First World War (1914-1918), the most horrific, bloody battle that anyone in Europe had ever seen, totaling a death rate that had since been unmatched in history. With all these events behind, it was no wonder that poets, writers, and artists of all kinds felt as though that there was a great shift in the world happening, and that it would soon come to an end.
The Second Coming was William Butler Yeats‘ ode to the era. Rife with Christian imagery, and pulling much inspiration from apocalyptic writing, Yeats’ The Second Coming tries to put into words what countless people of the time felt: that it was the end of the world as they knew it, and that nothing else would ever be the same again. The First World War had shaken the foundations of knowledge for many, and scarred from the knowledge of the ‘war to end all wars’, they could no longer reconcile themselves with a time before the Great War. This poem is the literary version of that: a lack of ability to think of a time before the war.