What cultured conversation doesn't start with the phrase, "I was reading in the Paris Review....." Well, today's article via Kim was a wonderful piece about the effectiveness of poetry - most specifically the poetry of W.B. Yeats and again most specially about the poem "The Second Coming." I am immediately pulled back to a third year English class, I have never forgotten, because of this poem -
The Second Coming
And here is the article from The Paris Review on the popularity of the poem today, almost a hundred years after it was written in 1919. It's a testament to the power of words and images, rhythm and rhyme or the lack thereof. Although, the poem did not have an impact on the dreadful events that followed its publication, it did and still does, give a voice to our anger, our frustration, our powerlessness.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?
Although we may continue to "perne in a gyre" (Sailing to Byzantium), poetry can slow the spin, as we struggle to draw some meaning from it all.
The title? from another of Yeats' poems - Easter 1916, which ends with the line "A terrible beauty is born."
The picture? Steelworks of the industrial age. We continue to create, in a myriad of (beautiful) ways, our own demise.
Read a poem today!