“THE SECOND COMING” BACKGROUND Written in 1919 and published in 1921, “The Second Coming” appears to be reflective of the catastrophe of World War I. Yeats believed that history moved in 2,000-year cycles. He thought that the Christian era, which followed the era of the ancient world, was about to give way to a period represented by a “rough beast.” “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 convictions, 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? PAIRED ACTIVITY -- “DRAW” THE ABOVE POEM IN THE STORYBOARD BELOW INDIVIDUAL ACTIVITY -- QUESTIONS: 1. What is the relationship between a falconer and a falcon? 1. What is the relationship between the falcon and the falconer? 2. Why does Yeats use this analogy (who is the falconer? Who is the falcon?)? 3. Look at the final four lines of the poem. What is being referenced here? 4. What do you believe is the poet’s vision of the future? 5. What “centre” does he refer to, and why can’t it hold? 6. What connotation do the following terms have in the poem? “loosed” “blood-dimmed” “ceremony of innocence is drowned” “falcon” “desert birds” 7. Why is it significant that the Sphinx is going to Bethlehem to be born, and why is it “slouching toward” it? GROUP ACTIVITY – ANALYSIS Why did Achebe choose a stanza from this poem to serve as the epigraph and a line from the poem to serve as the title?