The narrator of "The Gyres" is detachedly observing a world in flames, having destroyed its "ancient lineaments," succumbing to war and destruction while he (the narrator) asks himself if it really even matters. While he used to wish for the return of the old world, he seems now to understand that eventually it will return anyway in some form or other, and the "numb nightmare ride on top" will be over. Specifically, Yeats was referring to the Irish civil war and the destruction of such Irish landmarks as Coole Park. Yeats liked to use the geometrical form of the gyre as a metaphor of sorts for the progression of human civilization; the center represents civilization and order, the outer reaches representing chaos and uncertainty. In his poem "The Second Coming," Yeats explores this same idea of a world gone mad: "Turning and turning in the widening gyre/The falcon cannot hear the falconer/Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold," he begins in the first three lines.