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Yeats Was a Prophet

By       Message Tom Huckin       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   1 comment

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Almost one hundred years ago (1919) the great Irish poet William Butler Yeats composed his immortal poem, "The Second Coming." He wrote it at a time when the Western world was in chaos. World War I, known then as "the Great War" because it was the worst conflict in world history to that point, had been concluded the year before, and the Irish War of Independence was just beginning.
Although Yeats's mind was on those two wars, his poem speaks presciently to our current condition. I repeat it here, with footnotes indicating how I personally reinterpret it for today. (You may want to make your own interpretation.)

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Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon [1] cannot hear the falconer [2] ;
Things fall apart; the centre [3] cannot hold;
Mere anarchy [4] is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide [5] is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence [6] is drowned;
The best [7] lack all conviction, while the worst [8]
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, [9]
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds. [10]
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, [11]
And what rough beast, [12] its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


[1] The discontented masses rising up

[2] The Establishment

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[3] Political orthodoxy

[4] Trumpism

[5] The angry white working class and fellow travelers

[6] Business as usual, esp. in politics

[7] Thoughtful, conscientious citizens

[8] Steve Bannon, Breitbart News, Levin, other rightwing rabble rousers

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[9] Donald Trump

[10] The majority of Americans

[11] White evangelicals, AM hate radio jocks, etc.

[12] Trumpian nativism, neofascism

 

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Tom Huckin is a professor emeritus of English and Writing at the University of Utah, specializing in the study of modern propaganda. He has co-authored five books on academic subjects and written some 90 scholarly papers, including a chapter in (more...)
 

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