5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 2011
Given my own interest in astrology and mysticism, I'm surprised it's taken me so long to discover Yeats. This collection of 15 of Yeats' most famous poems, including "The Second Coming" and "Easter, 1916," was a good place to start, although I need to read more on his philosophy as described in his book "A Vision" to fully benefit from reading his poetry.
In this anthology, my favourite is "The Second Coming." A superb, haunting poem, Yeat's description of "the widening gyres" resonated deeply. Taken in historical context, the darkness in the poem is understandable, if depressing, as there is always the hope that, no matter how far the falcon (humankind) flies from the falconer (the Divine) perhaps the centre *can* hold as the spiralling gyres of history widen and narrow, and the evolutionary cycles of mankind's spiritual evolution wax and wane.
"Solomon and the Witch" was another poem I enjoyed in this first reading of Yeats's work. When Sheba "cried out in a strange tongue/Not his, not mine," the potential of Love to transcend cultural differences leads her lover, the wise King Solomon, "he that knew/All sounds by bird or angel sung," to contemplate how, when people are in love destiny ("Chance") and free will ("Choice") overlap and, as "lover tests lover," there is the risk that the "bride-bed brings despair." But the poem also offers the reader a glimpse of hope for, when "these two things...are a single light...burned in one" (when love unites differences), a "blessed moon last night/gave Sheba to her Solomon." Finally, after the "appropriate pain" has tested the lovers, there among the debris of the struggle, "the crushed grass ...and the moon wilder every minute," silence descends and love offers a second chance. This poem cleverly reflects the difficult progression of love between a man for a woman, while hinting at the same struggle mankind must undergo to understand the mystical mysteries of a Divine Love.
Some readers who, like me, are reading Yeats for the first time may find the lack of notes in this collection frustrating. While some political notes may have helped with some references (for example, in "Sixteen Dead Men") I found approaching the text without anyone else's impressions influencing me refreshing.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2014
This poem, written in 1919, is thought to presage the sorrows of the 20th century. But there is more, after the stunning first stanza.
Consider these opening lines of "The Leaders of the Crowd":
"They must, to keep their certainty, accuse
All that are different of a base intent."
Relevant today? Or this:
"Too long a suffering makes a stone of the heart."
This is a poem to keep close, and study. You can find it on the Web, but you won't bother.
Download it with a Kindle app. Spend some time with it.
Now, the part you remember:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre 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: a waste of desert sand;
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
Wind 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?