What vision of future is suggested in the second half of "The Second Coming"?

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accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The second stanza, if anything, is more bleak and uncompromising than the first and is incredible in the way that it paints a horrifying picture of the future that the speaker anticipates will befall humanity. As the speaker builds up our expectations by predicting "The Second Coming" in Biblical terms, ironically the only thing that is shown to be stirring is a sphinx-like figure that moves itself threateningly. The speaker sees the world's spirit, or "Spiritus Mundi" depicted in the following way:

A shape with the 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 gaze of this creature being "blank and pitiless as the sun" clearly summarises the lack of hope for the future that the poet sees. This is of course exacerbated by the ending which alludes to another birth of Jesus but making it very different:

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

This "rough beast" could symbolise totalitarianism, warfare or inhumanity. Clearly the poem paints a dire prophecy which probably Yeats conceived after the events of WWI which led him to believe that humans were slipping back into their former savage state dominated by chaos.

bhawanipur's profile pic

bhawanipur | College Teacher | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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In the poem 'The Second Coming' by WB Yeats has depicted his views about the future on the earth. He has used two words - 'falcon' and 'falconer' and also 'A shape with the lion body and the head of a man'. It suggests that whenever the sanctity of religion loses, God comes to the earth and destroys the evil doers and restore religion again. The poet might have read or heard about the incarnation of God as 'Narasimha' in the scripture of Hindu who emerged out of a post at the devotion of Prahlad, the son of Hiranyakashipu in the shape with the human's body and the head of a lion and killed the evil doer Hirnyakashipu. As ages pass mankind has lost its true ethics.

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