This poem is an Eschatology, which means writing about the apocalypse. It can also a commentary on the chaos and instability of the world in the aftermath of World War I. The poem uses vivid imagery and powerful metaphors to describe the breakdown of society and the loss of moral and ethical values .
The poem begins with a sense of desperation as the falcon seems to turn its neck in search of the falconer. The falcon, being a bird of prey, is known for its sharp senses and ability to fly to great heights. However, in the poem, the falcon can not hear the falconer, implying that it has lost it’s sense of direction and control. This represents the breakdown of communication and order in society, where people have lost their connection to the values and traditions that once held them together. The falcon’s inability to hear the falconer signifies the loss of control and the descent into chaos and anarchy.
The second stanza continues the theme of chaos and instability, with the poet expressing a sense of desperation and urgency. The phrase “Surely some revelation is at hand” suggests that something profound and transformative is about to happen, and the poet imagines the Second Coming of Christ as a symbol of this change.
However, ‘Spiritus Mundi’ is a spiritual subconscious which describes something ominous coimg into being brings a sense of terror; a “rough beast” with the body of a lion and the head of a man. This creature represents the destructive forces that are threatening to end humanity and the fact that it is moving towards Bethlehem, a symbol of birth and hope, suggests that this destructive force may be unstoppable.
LINE BY LINE ANALYSIS
“Turning and turning in the widening gyre” – The word “gyre” means a spiral or vortex, and the line suggests that the world is spiraling out of control.
“The falcon cannot hear the falconer” – This metaphor suggests that the breakdown of communication and control in society is like a falcon that has lost touch with its falconer.
“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold” – This line indicates that society is breaking down, and the institutions that once held it together are no longer functioning.
“Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world” – This line describes the chaos and disorder that are now rampant in the world.
“The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere” – This is a metaphor for the violence and bloodshed that are occurring everywhere.
“The ceremony of innocence is drowned” – This line suggests that the purity and innocence of the world have been lost, and society is now drowning in chaos and corruption.
“The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity” – This line suggests that the good people in the world lack the conviction and passion to stand up against the forces of evil, while those who are evil are passionate and motivated.
“Surely some revelation is at hand” – This line suggests that a profound and transformative event is about to occur.
“Surely the Second Coming is at hand” – The reference to the Second Coming of Christ suggests that this transformative event may be spiritual in nature.
“The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out” – This line suggests that the idea of the Second Coming is powerful and evocative.
“When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi troubles my sight” – Spiritus Mundi is Latin for “world spirit,” and the line suggests that the image that the poet sees is a manifestation of the world’s collective spirit.
“Somewhere in sands of the desert a shape with lion body and the head of a man” – This image is a metaphor for the destructive forces that threaten to overwhelm the world.
“Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it reel shadows of the indignant desert birds” – This line suggests that the destructive force is powerful and unstoppable, and that it is causing chaos and confusion in the world.
“The darkness drops again” – This line suggests that the image that the poet saw is gone, and that the world is once again shrouded in darkness and uncertainty.
“But now I know that twenty centuries of stony sleep were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle” – This line suggests that the world has been asleep for centuries, but that it is now being awakened by a new force.
“And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” – This line suggests that the destructive force is now on its way to Bethlehem, a symbol of birth and hope, and that the world is facing a new and uncertain future.
FORM AND STRUCTURE
The poem is heavily symbolic and metaphorical, using imagery drawn from Christianity, mythology, and Yeats’ own esoteric beliefs. The poem is also notable for its use of repetition, with the opening line “Turning and turning” repeated later in the poem, as well as the repetition of the phrase “Surely some revelation is at hand” and the use of anaphora in the last two lines of the poem, where “And” is repeated to create a sense of urgency and momentum. Overall, the form and structure of the poem serve to convey a sense of chaos and uncertainty, as well as a sense of impending doom and transformation.
THEME AND SUBJECT MATTER
The theme of “The Second Coming” by W.B. Yeats is the breakdown of civilization and the rise of chaos and anarchy. The poem is a reflection on the aftermath of World War I, a time of great upheaval and uncertainty in Europe, and Yeats uses vivid and apocalyptic imagery to convey his sense of despair and foreboding. The poem suggests that the traditional values and institutions that have guided society for centuries have lost their power, leaving humanity adrift and vulnerable to the forces of darkness.
The subject matter of the poem is the impending arrival of a new age, a time of transformation and rebirth. Yeats draws on Christian and pagan imagery to describe this new era, which is marked by the arrival of a strange and terrifying creature with the head of a man and the body of a lion. This creature represents a force of destruction and chaos, and its appearance signals the end of the old order and the beginning of a new one. The poem suggests that this new era will be characterized by violence and upheaval, but also by the possibility of renewal and transformation. Overall, the subject matter of the poem is a reflection on the cyclical nature of history and the inevitability of change.
- Imagery: Yeats uses vivid and striking imagery throughout the poem to convey his sense of impending doom and transformation. For example:
- “Turning and turning in the widening gyre” (line 1): This metaphorical image of a falcon flying in ever-widening circles creates a sense of disorientation and chaos.
- “The blood-dimmed tide is loosed” (line 5): This metaphorical image of a tide of blood creates a sense of violence and destruction.
- “A shape with lion body and the head of a man” (line 20): This image of a monstrous creature creates a sense of terror and horror.
- Metaphor: The poem is full of metaphors that create a sense of dread and unease. For example:
- “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold” (line 3): This metaphor suggests that the traditional values and institutions that have guided society for centuries are breaking down.
- “The ceremony of innocence is drowned” (line 6): This metaphor suggests that the sense of purity and innocence that once existed in the world is being destroyed.
- “The Second Coming” (line 10): This metaphor suggests that a new era is about to begin, one that is marked by chaos and upheaval.
- Allusion: Yeats alludes to several religious and mythological texts throughout the poem. For example:
- “Surely the Second Coming is at hand” (line 10): This alludes to the biblical concept of the Second Coming of Christ.
- “Spiritus Mundi” (line 14): This alludes to the concept of the world soul in Platonic philosophy.
- Personification: Yeats personifies abstract concepts throughout the poem, giving them human qualities. For example:
- “Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world” (line 4): Anarchy is given the human quality of being “loosed” upon the world.
- “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity” (lines 7-8): The concepts of “the best” and “the worst” are given human qualities of conviction and passion.