Things Fall Apart – The Second Coming

-this is a response to another blogpost

William Butler Yeats: “The Second Coming” (1921)

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center 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?

The Second Coming is a famous poem by William Butler Yeats, an Irish poet and dramatist. This poem has numerous implications that many scholars refer to for various reason. A novel I recently read in World Literature Class refers to a particular phrase in this poem: “Things Fall Apart.” The novel, named Things Fall Apart after this phrase, portrays an African community that slowly loses its identity and culture as it is saturated by the White culture introduced by the emissionaries. The phrase “things fall apart” in respect to the novel refers to this diaspora, or the slow loss of culture, of the African community . In respect to the poem, “things fall apart” refers to the state of chaos and separation in general. The poem itself does not seem to specify a topic as evident in the usage of the word “things” rather than a specific subject. But to expand on this concept of things falling apart, he also writes phrases such as “the center cannot hold” and “mere anarchy is loosed upon the world” to furthur reinforce the concept that Yeats is seemingly approaching towards.

The Second Coming in general refers to an event in Christianity that the Bible refers to. It refers to the promised return of Christ on Doomsday, supposedly the end of the world on which “believers” would be sent to heaven, and others would be sent to hell. This day is also referred to as Judgement day.

In Yeats’ poem, the Second Coming indirectly allude to this very Christian belief, but it seems to refer to the concept of “the end of the world.” The fact that Yeats refers to Spritius Mundi suggests that he emphasizes the spiritual aspect of an event in which “things fall apart.” Yeats also suggests that this “Second Coming” is a “revelation,” something that has not been obvious thus far.

The application of this poem to the novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe suggets something an ironic juxtaposition. The Christian missionaries represent the “rough beast [that] slouches towards Bethlehem to be born” who causes the slow diaspora of the African culture. Because of the influences that the White culture brings, the African religion, traditions and even methodolgy of daily lives slowly fades away. The irony is that the “good” and “spiritual” force in the concept of the Second Coming is the belief in Christinaity itself whereas in the novel, it is Christianity itself that brings about the chaos in the Ibo society. Things certainly do fall apart in the novel as the ending of the novel is rather tragic.


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