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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?

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“The Second Coming”

  • Consider both the speaker and the imagery in the first eight lines.  How do the images help create the persona of the speaker?  How are the speaker and the imagery different in the last 14 lines?
  • What do you think the falcon and the falconer (l. 2) symbolize?  What do you think it means that the “falcon cannot hear the falconer”?  How is that metaphor connected to the image in lines 14-17?
  • What is the effect of the repetition of “loosed” in lines 4 and 5, and “Surely” in lines 9 and 10?
  • Describe the tone of the poem.  How is it created?
  • Why do you think the poem ends with a question?