The central theme of the poem The Second Coming

The central theme of the poem The Second Coming

The well-known Irish poet W.B. Yeats wrote a poem titled The Second Coming that is both powerful and mysterious. The poem, which was published in 1920, captures the turbulent social, political, and cultural climate of the early 20th century. Yeats investigates the notion of an approaching apocalyptic event and the chaos that results with a prophetic tone and striking imagery. The poem's main themes are the cyclical nature of history, the breakdown of the existing order, and the start of a new, possibly darker era. The central theme of the poem The Second Coming

The central theme of the poem The Second Coming

The central theme of the poem The Second Coming-Yeats uses the title The Second Coming, which alludes to the Christian notion of Jesus Christ's second coming, as a metaphor for a more general and all-encompassing upheaval. "Turning and turning in the widening gyre / The falcon cannot hear the falconer," the poem's opening lines, establish the chaotic nature of the world right away. This vortex, or gyre, represents historical cycles and the growing gap between the old and new orders in society.

Yeats conveys the sense of disintegration and chaos with vivid and evocative imagery. Words like "anarchy is loosed upon the world" and "things fall apart" convey the chaos and disintegration of social structures. There is a sense of urgency and foreboding created by the poet's prophetic and symbolic word choice.

The central theme of the poem The Second Coming-The poem's central image is the "rough beast, its hour come round at last, / Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born." This hideous being, a representation of evil and devastation, heralds the coming of a new age or powerful force that will alter the course of history. A layer of irony and subversion is added by the mention of Bethlehem, which is customarily connected to the birth of Christ. This suggests that the impending birth is one of upheaval rather than salvation.

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Throughout the poem, Yeats grapples with the consequences of political turmoil and the disillusionment that followed World War I. The phrase "the blood-dimmed tide is loosed" reflects the violence and bloodshed that marked the war, while "the ceremony of innocence is drowned" speaks to the loss of innocence and idealism in the aftermath of the conflict. The poet captures the pervasive sense of fear and instability that characterized the post-war period.

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The central theme of the poem The Second Coming-The Second Coming also delves into the idea of a spiritual void or crisis. The widening gyre and the breakdown of traditional values leave a vacuum that can be filled by destructive forces. The poem suggests that when societies lose their moral and spiritual compass, they become susceptible to darker influences.

Yeats, drawing on his interest in mysticism and the occult, incorporates elements of his esoteric beliefs into the poem. The image of the Sphinx and the revelation that "what rough beast, its hour come round at last, / Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born" evoke a sense of ancient prophecies and cosmic inevitability. This adds a layer of complexity to the poem, inviting interpretations beyond the immediate socio-political context.


The Second Coming by W.B. Yeats remains a timeless and resonant piece of poetry that transcends its initial historical context. The central theme of cyclical change, societal upheaval, and the ominous arrival of a new era continues to capture the imagination of readers across generations. Yeats' use of vivid imagery, prophetic language, and symbolic references adds layers of meaning, making the poem a rich and enduring work of literature.

As we reflect on the poem's significance, we recognize its ability to tap into universal fears and uncertainties, offering a poignant commentary on the fragility of human civilization. The echoes of war, political turmoil, and spiritual crisis depicted in "The Second Coming" serve as a reminder of the perennial challenges that societies face in navigating change and confronting the darker aspects of human nature.



Q.1 What is the historical context of "The Second Coming"?

"The Second Coming" was written in the aftermath of World War I, a period marked by significant political and social upheaval. The poem reflects the disillusionment and anxiety prevalent during this time, capturing the sense of a world in turmoil.

Q.2 What does the phrase "widening gyre" signify in the poem?

The "widening gyre" is a central metaphor representing historical cycles and the increasing distance between established orders. It suggests a world spiraling out of control and emphasizes the inevitability of change.

Q.3 Who or what is the "rough beast" in the poem?

The "rough beast" symbolizes an ominous force or era that is on the brink of emerging. It represents a destructive and transformative power that will reshape the world, signaling a new phase in history.

Q.4 Why does Yeats use the term "slouches towards Bethlehem"?

Yeats's use of the term "slouches towards Bethlehem" in "The Second Coming" is a striking and deliberate choice that carries significant symbolic weight. This phrase is a poignant and ironic allusion to the biblical city of Bethlehem, traditionally associated with the birthplace of Jesus Christ.

In the context of the poem, the image of a creature "slouching towards Bethlehem to be born" is a metaphor for an impending, transformative force or era that is on the verge of emerging. It is important to note that Yeats employs irony in this reference because, in traditional Christian symbolism, Bethlehem is associated with the birth of hope, salvation, and a new beginning through the arrival of Jesus.

However, in Yeats's poem, this birth is not one of salvation or renewal but rather of chaos and upheaval. The choice of the word "slouches" adds a sense of ominous lethargy or inevitability, as if the arrival of this force is inexorable and unstoppable. The juxtaposition of the traditionally positive connotations of Bethlehem with the foreboding nature of the "rough beast" contributes to the poem's overall theme of the cyclical nature of history, where the birth of a new era may not necessarily bring about positive change.

By using this biblical reference, Yeats taps into a cultural and religious symbol that would have been familiar to many readers. This familiarity enhances the impact of the poem, as it subverts expectations and challenges conventional notions of rebirth and renewal. The irony underscores the unpredictability and potentially destructive nature of the forces that shape the course of history, inviting readers to reflect on the complexity and uncertainty of human existence.

Q.5 How does "The Second Coming" explore spiritual themes?

The poem delves into the idea of a spiritual void or crisis, emphasizing the consequences of losing moral and spiritual guidance. The breakdown of traditional values leaves a vacuum that can be filled by destructive forces, contributing to the overall sense of foreboding.

Q.6 What makes "The Second Coming" relevant beyond its historical context?

The poem's themes of cyclical change, societal upheaval, and the uncertainty of the future resonate across different times and contexts. Its evocative language and universal themes make it a work that continues to speak to readers about the complexities of the human experience.



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