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Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Things fall apart

The Second Coming by W.B. Yeats (1921)

Turning and turning in the widening gyre (1)
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 (2) is at hand;
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi (3)
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 (4) 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?



Notes:
(1) Spiral, making the figure of a cone.
(2) Second Coming refers to the promised return of Christ on Doomsday, the end of the world; but in Revelation 13 Doomsday is also marked by the appearance of a monstrous beast.
(3) Spirit of the World.
(4) 2,000 years; the creature has been held back since the birth of Christ.

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