The Second Coming Questions and Answers
by William Butler Yeats

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What is "gyre" in "The Second Coming"?

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A gyre in "The Second Coming" refers to a spiral or a circular motion, but it also stands for the larger cycles of history. Yeats believed that an orderly gyre or cycle of history that began with the birth of Christ was ending, about to be replaced with a new historical cycle of chaos and cruelty. As the speaker puts it in impassioned terms near the beginning of the poem:

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned
Yeats wrote this poem in 1919, shortly after the end of World War I, a senseless bloodbath that cost millions of lives and left many in shock that such carnage could have occurred. It seemed as though a "blood-dimmed tide" had engulfed the shores of the civilized world and many felt a loss of innocence. The Victorian conviction that the world was on a path of progress and enlightenment, firmly in the grasp of benevolent Providence, was destroyed by a war that few people thought should have happened.
In the second stanza, Yeats contrasts this new and ominous cycle of history to the birth of Christ. Instead of the gentle birth of a savior, Yeats envisions a monstrous "Second Coming:"
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun . . .
He ends by asking:
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

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A "gyre," in its simplest interpretation, is simply a spiral: this line, then, refers to the ever-widening spiral formation in which the falcon flies out of the falconer's reach. But Yeats was very interested in the concept of "gyres," which to him had a more philosophical meaning. A gyre, according to Yeats, represented "the...

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salimj | Student
Gyre is a circular or spiral motion or form, especially a giant circular oceanic current. We see the use of the word gyre in W.B.Yeats' poem ' Second Coming. Here gyre is a diagram composed of two conic helixes overlapping each other, so that the widest part of one cone occupies the same plane as the tip of the other cone and vice versa.
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