The Second Coming Summary By W.B. Yeats


The poem The Second Coming by WB Yeats is about the turmoil created by World War II. The poet is seeking the second birth of savior and Prophet (Christ). After World War II, there was a complete disconnect between humankind and divinity.

The poem is divided into 2 sections. The first section talks about the spiritual disconnect and suffering and on the other hand II section is about the second birth of Prophet.


Stanza 1

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.

In the first stanza, Yeats talks about the movement of the time which has widened the world. here gyre signifies the world. The falconer signifies father. And thus the Falcon is not following its owner.

There is a complete breakdown that prevents connection and communication. The political downfall of Europe is depicted here the world is paving blood tide everywhere. And innocence is lost completely because of pain and suffering.

In the last line, the poet says that best people have chosen to be quiet whereas the worst people have taken the front seat. The best are powerless and worst are in power. Thus the first stanza is all about the afterworld of World War II and its suffering.

Stanza 2

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? 

In the second stanza, the poet is very hopeful about some revelation and some positive outcome. Second coming is signified as the second birth of Crist or the Prophet which is going to happen.

Here the exclamation mark depicts that this is not a prophecy. Then. she sees a vast image of coming out of Spiritus Mundi. It’s the spirit of the world collective.

This distant image which doesn’t encourage the poet, it rather troubles his sight. What Yeats wants to see is the coming of Christ but what he gets to see is something else. It’s a kind of Hallucination.

Poet sees an unnatural image which has a lion’s body and head of a man and Emotionless as the sun. This creature is not going to bring any relief but only destruction. The beast is moving slowly and is compared with the real shades of angry desert birds or vultures.

Now the image of the beast has disappeared and the poet says that sleep of the 20th century and nightmare is a painful experience. Hence he realizes that Christ is not coming but the monstrous beast is coming to the place where Christ was born. The last line is not a declaration of the birth of this beast but rather acquisition.

-Sana Ansari
M.A. English
Jamia Millia Islamia