The Center Cannot Hold 

On occasion, when a tragedy takes over our media and what seems like our collective consciousness, I am reminded of the William Butler Yeats poem “The Second Coming.”

The first time I read this poem was on September 11th, 2001. I was in my junior year at the University of West Florida and the Twin Towers had just been attacked. School hadn’t been cancelled yet. When I arrived, the somber mood on campus hung thick. My professor, Dr Lowe-Evans, didn’t speak for about ten minutes and the students who were there knew why. Then she began reading the Yeats poem. After, she said, I don’t have any words. She turned on the news radio and we listened. Fifteen minutes later, she got word that school was cancelled. She said we could go, but that she was going to stay and listen to the news. Nobody moved. We sat the entire class period, listening to the tragic story. Then we slowly filed out.

Now, after the events in Charlottesville, I’m reminded of this poem again.

I’ve included it for you to enjoy.

The Second Coming

by William Butler Yeats

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?
w-b-yeats
W.B.Y.
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