The second coming with analysis

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 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?
Source: The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats (1989)




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“Whenever a catastrophe strikes, it’s incredibly common to see an outburst of apocalyptic mania. One of the most enduring and popular artifacts of such an outburst is “The Second Coming”, a poem written in the early 20’s by Irish poet William Butler Yeats. The inspiring catastrophe in question was, of course, World War I, which had recently ended; but Yeats was also influenced by the failed Easter Rising of 1916, when Irish Nationalists tried to obtain independence from Great Britain. In fact, Yeats wrote a poem, “Easter, 1916”, commemorating the fallen heroes, many of them personal friends, just a few months afterwards. But “The Second Coming” elevates Yeats’ sense of disillusion into a cosmic existentialism foretelling the very end of the world.

The poem is divided into three sections, although many publications divide it into two stanzas. In the first section, Yeats describes the intellectual and cultural atmosphere in Europe after the War, with a ‘falcon’, symbolizing mankind’s animalistic aggression, escaping from the control of its ‘Falconer’, the social codes of civilisation that had recently been blown apart. Without these codes, ‘things fall apart’, causing ‘mere anarchy’ and ‘the blood-dimmed tide’ to become ‘loosed’ upon the world (in this context, ‘mere’ means ‘total’). That these disasters are ‘loosed’ implies that they were always somewhere within us, but had previously been held in check. ‘The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity’- disillusioned by catastrophe, idealists completely give up, leaving a vacuum for more aggressive and violent people to take over. In less than fifteen years after the poem was published, the Nazi party would take over Germany.”

A deep ambivalence about being in touch

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There is a strange confusion about the desirability and the danger of human communication.We have a landline and  1 or 2 mobile phone yet we often set them so that only certain people can phone us.I did that until a gas engineer tried to phone me on his mobile and could not get through.A friend does not answer if I phone her on my mobile.
Yet people also complain nobody phones them.And we have email and texting too along with instant messaging.An FB messaging
For some people, this means checking phones every few minutes.Others give out a sound like an aeroplane taking off when a message comes in.Naturally, that takes precedence over any real living human you are with.
There’s a deep ambivalence here about wanting to be wanted and fearing scams and trickery.I have recently had an upsurge in people telling me I’ve been in an accident.I tell them I was killed!That ends it,
We know more people live alone.In a way that is bad but also it means you eat when you want.Watch your favourite programmes or in my case never use the TV set at all.
But there is nobody who knows where you are and maybe nobody who really knows you deeply.As friends and spouses die, it gets harder to find new people to relate to.And do you want to nurse another person through to death? Maybe if you really love them.

I was my daddy’s curly headed child

I was my daddy’s curly headed child
Although he died I recollect his voice
I threw great tantrums and became real wild

He ignored me till my beauty him beguiled
He loved me  then from will power not choice
I was my daddy’s curly headed child

My mother made me dresses  of quiet style
And I was a success with tiny  boys
I threw fewer tantrums and became less wild

He did not live to walk me down the aisle
I  make him live by singing, what a ploy!
I was my daddy’s curly headed child

Now I must  have come a million miles
Without my daddy whom I loved, annoyed
I throw no tantrum though I miss his smile

I loved Daddy, I believe he died
I have no proof but would Mother tell lies?
I was my daddy’s curly headed child
I threw great tantrums, played with toys and wailed.

Is that strange noise a tiger or a rat?

As I lie alone in my large bed
Occasionally graced by a big cat
I recall  the habits of the long gone dead

For there is an article I  just read
How  entire families used to lay down and might chat
As I sing along in my large bed

I wonder what my husband would have said
Had I asked the neighbours  to do that
I recall  the habits of the friendly dead

I know my bed is smaller than a shed
The surface seems unsteady and not flat
As I lie and tell the truth in my large bed

I feel ashamed; my  high boned cheeks are red
Is that strange noise a tiger or a rat?
I cry,I’m  missing  all my friends who’re dead

If   our innings comes, we each must bat
For life does not award an aegrotat
As I lie in reverie in my  bed
I  float into a dream  redeeming  dread.



Poet v Novelist

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Twelve years ago, I began work on a long poem about a subject I’d tried dealing with in several novels, my experience while working in a welfare building in San Francisco in 1969. I decided to combine this idea with new material about a pogrom in Poland in which 1,600 Jewish men, women and children were murdered. The many narratives and characters required balancing techniques I’d learned in writing all those failed novels.

Winning the Pulitzer Prize had ended the rivalry, I thought. The poet in me was triumphant. I was never meant to be a novelist. But when I finally finished the book in the spring of 2013, my editor suggested calling this long poem “a novel in verse.” I protested somewhat but finally gave in; both my identities were too exhausted to continue the struggle.

It’s hard not to smile when I hear myself explaining to people that “The Wherewithal” is a poem that uses some novelistic techniques. The novelist seems to be taking all this in his stride. He knows that the poet got the book published and that the lines are broken into stanzas, not paragraphs. He’s even being, well, something of a gentleman about it. Forty-two years is a long time to struggle to do anything. And the poet is more than willing to share credit if credit is due. In fact, we are on our best behaviour. Maybe, after all these years, we’re finally learning to cooperate, or at least live like brothers.