Overview

“The Second Coming” is one of the best-known poems by the Anglo-Irish writer William Butler Yeats. He wrote the poem in 1919, at a time when his longstanding interest in mysticism began to influence his verse. The poem reveals a prophetic vision of the contrary forces at work in history, which periodically result in cataclysmic moments of radical transformation. The speaker of “The Second Coming” is convinced that one such moment is at hand. The symbolic agent of this transformation is a terrifying sphinx-like creature, which Yeats describes in what remains the poem’s most indelible image: that of a “rough beast . . . Slouching towards Bethlehem to be born.”

Read a summary & analysis, an analysis of the speaker, and explanations of important quotes from “The Second Coming.”

Upgrade to PLUS and get instant access to all the study tools

Upgrade to PLUS and get instant access to all the study tools