The Second Coming is a poem written by Irish poet W. B. Yeats in 1919, first printed in The Dial in November 1920, and afterwards included in his 1921 collection of verses Michael Robartes and the Dancer. The poem uses Christian imagery regarding the Apocalypse and Second Coming to allegorically describe the atmosphere of post-war Europe. It is considered a major work of modernist poetry and has been reprinted in several collections.
The poem was written in 1919 in the aftermath of the First World War and the beginning of the Irish War of Independencein January 1919, that followed the Easter Rising in April 1916, at a time before the British Government decided to send in the Black and Tans to Ireland. Yeats used the phrase “the second birth” instead of “the Second Coming” in his first drafts.
The poem is also connected to the 1918–1919 flu pandemic: In the weeks preceding Yeats’s writing of the poem, his pregnant wife Georgie Hyde-Lees caught the virus and was very close to death. The highest death rates of the pandemic were among pregnant women—in some areas, they had up to a 70 percent death rate. While his wife was convalescing, he wrote “The Second Coming”. (SOURCE)
“In April 1936, three years before his death, WB Yeats received a letter from the writer and activist Ethel Mannin. She asked him to join a campaign to free a German pacifist incarcerated by the Nazis. Yeats responded instead with a reading recommendation: “If you have my poems by you, look up a poem called ‘The Second Coming’,” he wrote. “It was written some sixteen or seventeen years ago & foretold what is happening. I have written of the same thing again & again since. This will seem little to you with your strong practical sense for it takes fifty years for a poet’s weapons to influence the issue.”
As the world is wrenched out of joint by the coronavirus pandemic, many people are turning to poetry for wisdom and consolation, but “The Second Coming” fulfils a different role, as it has done in crisis after crisis, from the Vietnam war to 9/11 to the election of Donald Trump: an opportunity to confront chaos and dread, rather than to escape it. Fintan O’Toole has proposed the “Yeats Test”: “The more quotable Yeats seems to commentators and politicians, the worse things are.”” (SOURCE)
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 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? SOURCE