March 3, 2013

from The Vision and Second Coming: William Butler Yeats Mashup by Jerome Rothenberg

At the birth of Christ religious life becomes primary, secular life antithetical - man gives to Caesar the things that are Caesar's.  A primary dispensation looking beyond itself towards transcendent power is dogmatic, leveling, unifying, feminine, humane, peace its means and end; an antithetical dispensation obeys immanent power, is expressive, hierarchical, multiple, masculine, harsh, surgical.  The approaching antithetical influx and that particular antithetical dispensation for which the intellectual preparation has begun will reach its complete systematisation at the moment when, as I have already shown, the Great Year comes to its intellectual climax.  Something of what I have said it must be, the myth declares, for it must reverse our era and resume past eras in itself; what else it must be no man can say, for always at the critical moment the Thirteenth Cone, the sphere, the unique intervenes.
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 the 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 toward Bethlehem to be born?

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Commentary to follow.

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