Another poem by Yeats, The Second Coming, was written in 1919 after the First World War and is a slightly depressing poem. While about war – whether the First World War or the earlier Prussian War - it hints at the destructive power of humanity whether through war, environmental change, mining or “economic development” and that befalls the earth is largely of humanity’s making as it no longer has any innocence of the fate of the planet, with much of the world moulded and shaped by our hands into a Garden of Eden or a place of financial or environmental disaster depending on your viewpoint. But the key is that there will be no saviour or silver bullet to come from “somewhere in sands of the desert” and humanity must address its own hubris when the limits to the earth are breached. This leads on to the idea of sustainability, that much abused and misused word.
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: 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?