The Second Coming

The Second Coming

(warning: possibly another depressing post. Sorry.)

You’ve probably come across the line: things fall apart; the centre cannot hold. It’s from Yeats’ classic poem The Second Coming. I’ll let you read it and then I’ll carry on.

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?

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”- that’s what it all feels like at present. I’ve stopped trying to keep my focus on the mess that is my country’s attempts to follow this suicidal Brexit; every day, something changes, often many times a day. It should not be happening, any of it; the whole thing was part of various manoeuvring for power by greedy, amoral politicians, who will be the last to suffer the devastating effects (unless by some miracle, there is any justice in this world). I’ve tried to filter out the endless awfulness in the world (not giving examples but I am sure you are aware how much I deplore the orange man sitting in the White House).

Yet in recent months it has been the loss of things far from the forefront of national and international news that has brought home to me what is steadily being destroyed, disregarded and negated.

Last year, the retreat house, Abbey House, in Glastonbury, closed its doors as a retreat house; it has reverted to the original trust and is being used for various events. I spent a very powerful weekend retreat there in 2016, and I sensed that it was struggling, for all sorts of reasons, but largely down to money. Something special and wonderful has gone from the world; yes, maybe it could be that sanctuary again but the probability is that there will never be the money to run it again as it ought to be run.

At the weekend, staying with friends, I decided to look up somewhere else I have treasured memories of: Kinmel Hall in north Wales, where I spent three weekend retreats as a student. I wished I had not looked; the venture failed (it was set up by a Christian businessman to be a conference centre and retreat house) and after several other attempts at other use, the building is now derelict.

These are just a small sample of the things I am observing as they fall apart, as “the centre cannot hold”. Yeats’ poem is so powerful but bleak. I have seen that good people are losing heart; as he says, “the best lack all conviction and the worst are full of passionate intensity”. To a certain type of Christian, the phrase “the second coming” is full of hope: the end of the world is nigh and that’s a good thing as far as they are concerned. But it’s not. The second coming Yeats’ poem speaks of is not gentle Jesus meek and mild, but a rough beast slouching its way to be born. I do not know what this creature may truly be but something is being birthed and it is not good.

6 thoughts on “The Second Coming

  1. I understand the point you are making but I don’t agree with it. We all make our own future. It doesn’t magically happen. I agree that some of the people and things affecting and influencing our lives are not ideal (understatement!) But things go to hell when people accept a negative future rather than fighting for a better one. The centre always holds, it may get dented and bent out of shape but it always prevails eventually. Always. Keep writing Viv–you make me think xx


    • I often wonder how folks in the 1930s felt, both in the UK and in Germany; plenty fought for a better future, yet most were swept along with whatever their country did. I hope the centre will prevail but entropy suggests it is only ever a temporary thing.


  2. It has happened in America too. I have stopped watching the news when a man who got drunk and tried to rape a woman was elected by congress to sit on the Supreme Court.

    Perhaps we are experiencing the darkness before the light. Things will change. I just hope we all can keep the faith.


  3. Yes, Vivienne – I agree with you, we feel the same – only difference is we try to deal in hope (when we can!) and the rough beast isn’t Jesus, whatever it may be – am not awaiting an ‘Evo’ second coming though … Thankfully, Yeats wasn’t what some call ‘a prophet’ (I happen to believe that real true ‘prophets’ are simply people who can read the signs of the time, (as Jesus certainly did, including that a ministry like his was bound to lead towards execution). … whatever is in the future, (I pray it is not far right dictatorship one size fits all) struggling to support the few good things around … not easy … Thanks for this piece …


    • Prophets are the canaries in the coal-mines, the everyday Cassandras of the modern world, and like her, they/we are not listened to. I believe that Yeats, like many poets, was a seer; he saw a segment of what lurks ahead. I have tried and tried to , “deal in hope” yet that has not helped; I refuse to shut up, though, as some would have it.


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