#24

As it has been said before, I am a sucker for referential writing. Whether it is Shakespeare penning the words, “the game is afoot”, or “The Grapes of Wrath” being sung in “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”, I love when one work borrows its title from another. “Things Fall Apart” is well known as a seminal work of African literature, and one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. Few are aware however, that it owes its title to the poem, “The Second Coming”, by William Butler Yeats.

My fascination with titles led me to this fact many years ago, and I have loved this poem ever since. “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold”, is such a rich and contemplative phrase that allows near endless thoughtful reflection. The work itself is a dark, vivid portrayal of what the author believed to be the coming apocalypse. Part of the unsettling nature stems from the word choice and cold distance kept by the writer. He is describing things without opinion, as a spectator, similarly to scenes and events in The Bible.

It is ominous and haunting, sculpted out of beautiful verse. This one sticks with you, in a horrifying but captivating way. The foreboding mounts as the poem draws to a close, and we are left with only a question, but one that I for one, don’t want to think about being answered.

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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: 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?

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