Sunday, November 13, 2016


William Butler Yeats is my favorite poet.  I turn to him in moments of despair.  The Second Coming is one of my favorite poems.  Here are the opening lines:

"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."

I pulled down my well-worn copy of Collected Poems to refresh my memory.  My brother asked, "Remember we were talking awhile back about how many others who've appropriated Yeats for their titles?"  Remember No Country For Old Men?"  I said, "That's a line from Sailing To Byzantium."   He said, "I recently heard an old Lou Reed song where he sang that the best lack all conviction."

 He quipped, "So, are you slouching towards Bethlehem with Joan Didion?" I answered,"Well, it does feel as if the rough beast's hour has come round at last!" Here are the last lines of The Second Coming:

"And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"

He continued, "Remember Eastwood reciting Yeats in Million Dollar Baby?"  I sighed and said, "Well, I remember it was phony because Eastwood's character  was supposedly translating Lake Isle Of Innisfree from Gaelic but Yeats never wrote in Gaelic and never learned to speak Gaelic and fought about using Gaelic for street signs and other issues."

Listen here to the virtual movie version of Yeats himself reading The Second Coming:

Please read the link from Paris Review about the usage of Yeats' lines by other writers;  it is titled The Second Coming:  Our Most Thoroughly Pillaged Poem.

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