Thursday, August 16, 2007
THE BEST LACK ALL CONVICTION...
There must be a name for it. That phenomenon when one thing occurs in many places at the same time. Today, in my daily perusal I find these words being quoted in many places.
"The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."
I finally had to break down and look up the context and here it is. It was written in 1920 and I read that for the anti-democratic Yeats, 'the best' referred to the
traditional ruling classes of Europe, however, the places that I see these lines quoted are not anti-democratic but I don't think I will bother with trying to figure those implications. Like everyone else, I read this in my youth, but I forgot the arresting imagery.
The Second Coming
William Butler Yeats
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 towards Bethlehem to be born?
“The Second Coming” is fast becoming the official poem of the Iraq war.