© 2015 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Second Coming

The Second Coming

  

by William Butler Yeats

 Table of Contents

The Second Coming Society and Class Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Line)

Quote #1

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer; (lines 1-2)

The relationship between falcon and falconer is like that between servant and master. Yeats believed that a strong aristocracy was necessary to keep uncontrollable social forces in line. Without the direction of the falconer, the falcon is both aimless and dangerous.

Quote #2

"but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle." (lines 18-20)

This powerful image works in two ways. First, the "rough beast" is being disturbed from its "stony" or indifferent sleep. It is portrayed as an infant in a rocking cradle. But human society is what suffers from the "nightmare." The speaker is saying: you thought you’ve seen violence and bad stuff in the past, but that was like a baby sleeping compared to what you’re about to see.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...

Advertisement
Advertisement