1. According to the first stanza, the world is in a condition of “mere anarchy”, that is to say that its decline is uncontrollable. Violence is taking over the world and the innocent are defenceless and therefore destined to “drown”.
Moreover, Yeats asserts that the “best” people, those with noble values and good intentions, don’t have enough resolution to do the right thing. On the contrary, the “worst” have the power to accomplish their evil purposes.
2. A. The poet is convinced that a “Second Coming” is about to take place. Humanity is going to be shown “some revelation”, which will mark the beginning of a new era.
B. Yeats refers to a “rough beast” , half lion and half man, which will slowly materialise in the desert, surrounded by birds. It is heading to Bethlehem, where, like Christ, it will be born. By the time of the coming of the beast darkness will have fallen.
C. The “rocking cradle” in line 20 is probably that of Jesus Christ, whose birth is described in the following two lines. He is assumed to have “vexed” 20 centuries of human history, turning them into a “nightmare”.
STRUCTURE AND STYLE3. First of all, repetitions give rhythm to the composition. Also, they recall the ancient religious texts’ style, giving the poem a prophetic tone.
4. The “falcon”, which is a mighty hunting bird, represents men. It “cannot hear the falconer”, hence it is lost without its guide, which, for men, lies in God. This metaphor is an explanation of men’s despicable behaviour as a sign of what according to the author is a near apocalypse.
5. The wild beast is half man and half lion. It moves slowly, probably because of its huge build. Besides, its gaze lacks all expression. This creature reminds a sphinx as well as Dante’s Minos: an infernal monster with both human and animal features whose task is that of judging the sinners.
6. In this poem the poet clearly acquires the role of the prophet. For instance, he knows that an important “revelation” as well as “the Second Coming” itself are “at hand”. He is also able to picture in his mind “a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi”, that is to say, the terrible imaginary creature.
7. The poem deals with the theme of apocalypse, that is to say the end of the current era and the beginning of a new one. Yeats bases his visions on Biblical predictions, such as “the Second Coming” and he also uses Christian expressions such as “revelation” or the reference to the city of Bethlehem, which is no longer the place of birth of the saviour but rather of a monster.