Monday, October 25, 2010

Yeats' The Second Coming: the submorons haven't won

At least ten times in the past twenty-four hours I've seen this poem referenced. By old and young. Hip and merely groovy. Overly educated and educated. (Regardless of your diploma or degree, if a line from Yeats "The Second Coming" is something you've held, you're educated.)

And this collective confidence in our knowledge means that for all the idiotic shouts and misquotes spewing from right-wing media mouths, the submorons haven't won. And we can't believe they have.

Because Yeats is part of the canon, I don't mean to imply the submorons are synonymous with pop culture. Pop is as much a part of who I am as classics, the canon, the old and that's true of many I admire and I believe it's fine and adds to cultural richness. I'm saying the submorons, in their Clarence Thomas-like lack of curiosity or interest in learning more of our world, do not know what is true and authentic. (My post on Diane Wakowski offers a little more on the topic of submorons.) (My post on this post, Sarah Sarai's Second Coming: tale of a penitant swift and willful, reveals an embarrassing erratum, now fixed.)

The fabulous news is not everyone's lost their instinct for the authentic.

The Second Coming

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 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.
William Butler Yeats, 1865-1931
His Nobel link.

Illustraton:  William Blake, 1757-1827
An interesting link from the Tate.


  1. Dan: I don't know if my odd hilarity was before or after your life-saving catch. Either way, thanks! S.

  2. what a wonderfully thorough and entertaining post. Thank you Sara. This poem of Yeats is timelessly apt. When has some rough beast not been slouching to Bethlehem to be born! When has there not been anarchy loosed somewhere!

  3. I wish I'd come up with any of those lines, but thanks.
    A gentle fyi: It's Sarah with an h. (I'm like that.)