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With this line, Yeats was suggesting that the foundations of Western culture, in particular Christianity, were falling apart. In the wake of the First World War and the Bolshevik Revolution, European society was experiencing extreme social, cultural, and political unrest. Yeats sees in this unrest the end of a historical cycle, one which had seen the rise, and, he thought, the fall, of Western civilization. After the "center" collapsed, "mere anarchy" would be loosed upon the world, to be replaced, ultimately, with something that Yeats fears, a "rough beast" that "slouches toward Jerusalem." Particularly in the passage in question, Yeats is evoking apocalyptic images, but he is not suggesting that the new era ushered in will be the Second Coming of Christ, but the birth of something new and frightening.
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