June 13th marks the birth­day of one of the greats of Mod­ernist poet­ry, William But­ler Yeats.  To real­ly under­stand an appre­ci­a­tion of Yeats, all you need is an exam­ple of his work.  The Sec­ond Com­ing is a fan­tas­tic exam­ple of the Mod­ernists’ attempts to couch the post WWI malaise in their var­i­ous art forms and is, in my not real­ly very hum­ble opin­ion, one of the best poems of all time.

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: 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?

If that doesn’t hit you right where it hurts, I don’t real­ly know what to do with you.

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So, what do you think?