Things fall apart

1

22 August, 2007 by rhesus12

Yeat’s masterpiece below has been getting a lot of publicity recently as being the the perfect “soundtrack” to the Iraq war. I agree (though the New York Times doesn’t).

The Second Coming
WB 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 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 towards Bethlehem to be born?

The Times article (reprinted in the IHT) notes that

The Brookings Institution just released a report on the Iraq war entitled “Things Fall Apart.” When a Washington lawmaker took to the House floor last year to demand that President George W. Bush present a plan for Iraq, he called his speech “The Center Cannot Hold.” Blogs are full of the observation that “the blood-dimmed tide is loosed” in Iraq these days.

The Times‘ objections appear to be that Yeats was a spiritualist and so his idea of the “Second Coming” was not that of your average person’s, and that he advises against “punditry” and too much speculation in the second stanza. The answer to both seems to be, so what? Still looks like Iraq to me, especially if the war is the “rough beast” slouching towards Israel and its nuclear welcome.


The Economist has a review of a couple of new books on Condi Rice, the “dazzler that dimmed”, in which Colin Powell is quoted as saying of Iraq, “you break it, you own it”. I can’t begin to imagine what will be possible in that country once the Americans move out. Iran, Syria and the Shia vs Saudi, Egypt and the Sunni? Its no coincidence that Egypt and Saudi had their fingers quietly crossed for Israel against Hezbollah, which you could call an Iranian expeditionary force.

That’s why I’m reluctantly backing the “surge”, purely as a matter of practicality – what’s the alternative? Happy to hear a workable one, bearing in mind that this is a country where pipe bombs are put in gear bags at children’s soccer matches and detonated at half-time.

The post An Iraqi ex-soldier does origami gives a kind of Yeatsian apocalyptic context from an Assyrian point of view.

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One thought on “Things fall apart

  1. Justme says:

    Interesting in a way that Yeats’ poem was written towards the end of WWI, when the Ottoman Empire in Arabia and ‘Turkey’ was collapsing, and the British and French were busy drawing up clumsy plans for a division of the spoils between them. At the risk of sounding like a paler version of Condi Rice, modern day conflict in Iraq can largely be laid at the feet of the British (who installed a puppet monarchy after the war and drew territorial borders around Iraq in complete disregard for ethnic enclaves), and before them the Ottomans, whose Sunni brand of Islam wrested control from the native Shi’a, and continued to dominate during and after the British protectorate. In short, the US may not be helping, but it ain’t responsible for the internicene wars either..

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