The Second Coming



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The Second Coming


 

By W.B. 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 Coming1 is at hand.

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out

When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi2

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 centuries3 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?









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(1) The 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.

(2) Spirit of the World.

(3) 2,000 years; the creature has been held back since the birth of Christ. Yeats imagines that the great heritage of Western European civilization is collapsing, and that the world will be swept by a tide of savagery from the "uncivilized" portions of the globe. As you read this novel, try to understand how Achebe's work is in part an answer to this poem.



A Second Look at “The Second Coming”
Purpose: Rereading deepens understanding. Our goal is to better understand both texts.
Directions: Complete at least 3 (more is better!) of these exercises in your journal. You must do either #1 or #2 (each directly compare the poem with our book); after that the choice is entirely yours. This will be a required entry in your journal.


  1. Comparing the first stanza with Things Fall Apart. In your journal, create a T-chart or Venn diagram. Write down each line and phrase in the first stanza in the first column/circle. Then, in the middle column, make a connection with something that it reminds you of in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Then, use the third column to reflect over what you have noticed about these two works. What do you better understand now? What are your thoughts on these issues?




  1. Shifting Perspectives. Speculate how you might read this poem differently if you were Okonkwo (assuming it was written in Okonkwo’s language). What would your interpretation be? Now, try reading it from the perspective of Mr. Brown, Mr. Smith, or the District Commisioner. How does the meaning change; how does it stay the same? Write your response on your sheet.




  1. Tone Impressions. Come up with TWO different adjectives (use a powerful adjective; consulting the thesaurus may help) to describe the tone of the poem. For each tone word, find at least 3 specific words or phrases in the poem that create that tone and list them on your response sheet.




  1. Troubling Lines. Read the poem again. Now, come up with one specific question about the language, craft, or message in the poem. Write your question in your journal. Then, collect possible answers: consult THREE different groups to hear their thoughts on your question, and write down their answers in your journal.




  1. Animal Fever! Answer these questions with your group. Be sure to record your answers on your response sheet.




    1. Name all the animals that are mentioned in the poem.

    2. What do you think each animal symbolizes?

    3. What purpose or message is each animal image conveying?




  1. Vocabulary Work. Define these vocabulary words so that you can better understand the poem. Once you define them, reread the poem and discuss what you understand now that you have looked up these words.

    1. Anarchy

    2. Falconry

    3. Conviction

    4. Revelation

    5. Indignant

    6. Vexed



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