Saturday, August 31, 2013

Yeats: Old Man and Young

“An aged man is but a paltry thing, a tattered coat upon a stick, unless / soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing / for every tatter in its mortal dress.” 
W.B. Yeats, "Sailing to Byzantium"


As a young man, Yeats wrote:

The Second Coming (1919)

First published in The Dial (November 1920) and The Nation (6 November 1920), later publisehed in Michael Robartes and the Dancer (1921) - Online text with some notes on variant editions - online text and notes

  • 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: a waste of desert sand;
    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
    Wind 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?
    Photo of William Butler Yeats. This is a press photograph from the George Grantham Bain collection, which was purchased by the Library of Congress in 1948. According to the library, there are no known restrictions on the use of these photos. Sourced from the Wikimedia Commons.

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