Sandy Shreve
Paintings, Photo Art, Poetry

Blog - Wednesday Poems


Image:  Things Fall Apart, 36" x 36", oil and cold wax on cradled wood panel.


Today, instead of posting one of my own poems, I thought I’d post a classic: The Second Coming, by W. B. Yeats, which in large part inspired the above painting.

For the past decade, this poem has haunted me.  History, it seems, is repeating itself, too often featuring the worst of human failings.  When Russia invaded Ukraine, I was experimenting with oil and cold wax on a large cradled wood panel. As I laid down layer after layer of disparate shapes tumbling through space, a line from that poem, “things fall apart, the centre cannot hold,” kept coming to mind. I soon realized I was painting the first phrase of that line. I still hope the second phrase might not come to pass, though since then the world seems to be slipping further into the abyss, with yet more unconscionable wars raging, a worsening climate crisis and the rise of the far right (though happily, the recent British and French elections held the latter at bay, at least for now).


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 towards Bethlehem to be born?

- William Butler Yeats, 1920