William Butler Yeats
The Second Coming (c. 1920)


Turning and turning in the widening gyre


The falcon cannot hear the falconer;


Things fall apart; the center 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?

1. gyre: a spiraling motion which forms a cone.

12. Spiritus Mundi: soul of the world.