Friday

Dec. 29, 2000

The Second Coming

by William Butler Yeats

Broadcast date: FRIDAY, 29 December 2000

Poem: "The Second Coming," by W.B. Yeats.

The Second Coming

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: 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 toward Bethlehem to be born?

It's the birthday of comedian Paula Poundstone, born in Sudbury, Massachusetts (1959).

"I'm just amazed that what I got thrown out of class for, I now get paid to do. The same thing could be said by criminals, I suppose."

It's the birthday of novelist William Gaddis, born in New York (1922). His novel The Recognitions (1955) was so harshly reviewed that he published nothing for 20 years. His other books include JR (1975—National Book Award), Carpenter's Gothic (1985), and A Frolic of his Own (1994).

In 1916 on this day, James Joyce's autobiographical novel The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was published in New York.

It's the birthday of Joyce C. Hall, born in David City, Nebraska (1891). Using $3,500 he earned in high school, Hall set up a wholesale greeting card business in Kansas City (1910). It eventually became the biggest greeting card company in the world: Hallmark Cards.

It's the anniversary of the Massacre at Wounded Knee Creek, in South Dakota, two weeks after the killing of Chief Sitting Bull. White authorities, made anxious by the spread of the new 'Ghost Dance' religious fervor that had swept western Indian reservations during the previous year, had decided on a crackdown. The Ghost Dance called for the arrival of a messianic figure who would restore the buffalo to the plains, make the white men disappear, and bring back the old Native American way of life. When Sitting Bull was killed, Big Foot led his band of Lakota Sioux toward the Pine Ridge Agency, where they were surrounded by the 7th Cavalry: 200 of Big Foot's people, including women and children, were killed.

It's the feast day of martyred Saint Thomas Beckett, the Archbishop of Canterbury, murdered in his own cathedral on this day in 1170, by 4 knights of King Henry the Second. Henry II and Thomas Beckett had been close friends when Henry made Becket Archbishop. Beckett told him, "You will soon hate me as much as you love me now, for you assume an authority in the affairs of the church to which I shall never assent." When Henry said, "Will no one rid me of this troublesome cleric?" the knights believed it was Henry's wish that Beckett should die.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









«

»

  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook


The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Sharon Olds at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »