In all our sanctuaries we sit at risk

The Gaze Blank and Pitiless


WB Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming” was written almost exactly a century ago, but if it’s possible for a poem to become truer still with age, then surely this one does.

And yet…Yeats wrote his poem in 1919, in the aftermath of the First World War and the beginning of the Irish War of Independence (he was Irish). The poem is also connected to the 1918-1919 ‘flu pandemic. In the weeks preceding Yeats’ writing of the poem, his pregnant wife Georgie Hyde-Lees caught the virus and nearly died. He composed it during her convalescence.

The new poem above, written yesterday, contains several direct quotes from Yeats’ extraordinary lines.