25 Mar WB Yeats Pencil Set – The Second Coming
The Second Coming
In November 2020 I was on twitter and I caught a video of the Irish ambassador in Washington DC reading a Yeats poem. The poem was called The Second Coming. And I had never heard of it before. Which, given how much I love WB Yeats, was strange. So of course I immediately went off to read it in full.
And as soon as I started reading through the poem I could see so many lines that felt so prescient. Take the section below for example. It’s so powerful. And I felt like we could all do with some powerful words in our lives at the moment.
Surely some revelation is at hand.
Surely the second Coming is at hand.
The history behind the poem
“The Second Coming” was written by William Butler Yeats in 1919, but it wasn’t published until the following year in November 1920 in The Dial. The Dial was an American magazine first started in the 1840’s. Yeats later included The Second Coming his 1921 collection of verses Michael Robartes and the Dancer.
Yeats inspiration for The Second Coming
The poem uses imagery of the Apocalypse and Second Coming to allegorically describe the atmosphere of post-war Europe. It is considered by many to be a major work of modernist poetry.
The poem was written in 1919 in the aftermath of the First World War and the beginning of the Irish War of Independence that followed the Easter Rising.
Yeats used the phrase “the second birth” instead of “the Second Coming” in his first drafts. A reflection of where Ireland was in its history at the time.
The poem also has ties to the 1918–1919 flu pandemic. In the weeks preceding Yeats’s writing of the poem, his pregnant wife Georgie Hyde-Lees caught the flu virus and was very close to death. While his wife was getting better, he wrote “The Second Coming”.
Ties from past to present
Its strange, looking at this now, how many ties there are to our modern day world. The pandemic, the turbulent world stage we are living through. There is so much relevance to this poem even today over a hundred years after it was first written
The Second Coming was published over a hundred years ago in November 1920. The world was recovering from the devastation of World War 1, there was a global flu pandemic. And so many times in the years and decades since his words have been called on in times of great turbulence and turmoil.
“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.”
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