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Sententiae viri ex temporibus duobus

Eep! I Missed National Poetry Month

Mice pointed out that it is indeed national poetry month in April (itself poetically renowned for its cruelty).

My favourite poem would have to be William Butler Yeats' The Second Coming. I was assigned to report on this poem in late-fall of my senior year in high school and I recall my teacher saying: “You’re going to love this one, Steven”.

She was right.

I can only gather by the reports etc. that I had turned in up to that point that she could derive my Byronic appreciation of such poems. Here it is:

“The Second Coming” WB 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 convictions, 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?

I recall that there were tons of entries of footnotes in the poem so that we would be able to follow the mythological, religious, and occult references in the poem.

Yeats was an interesting cat, foremost he was an Irish patriot, a denizen of County Silgo and was a playwright, poet, and general man about town. Yeats famously obsessed over the beautiful Irish stage actress Maude Gonne and wrote many odes and such to her. Yeats' interests were never met in even measure.

Yeats eventually did marry and have a family, but he maintained a constant interest (despite his Catholic roots) in the Occult. There exist many accounts of his presence at seances and his association with the Blavatsky / Crowley Victorian school of Theosophy is well documented.

Ultimately, I see his philo-occultish interests and being an outworking of his Irish heritage and Irish folklore roots. He was likely seeking to express the Celtic tradition (the faire folk, etc.) that had been paved over in the Victorian culture’s conquest of Eire.

In any case, this kind of tortured whacked-out mystical kind of character really appealed to me and this Jungian imagery poem about the slow decline of civilization is likewise fascinating.

The Cranberries sang a song about him on their second CD too.