The poem "The Second Coming" was written by William Butler Yeats in 1919. Yeats was an accomplished Irish poet and was known for the socio-religious ideas he emphasized in his poetry. In "The Second Coming," his ideas unfold in three significant metaphors. The first metaphor relates a falcon and its falconer to the destruction of society. The metaphor has two possible interpretations. One view may be that the falcon represents society and the falconer represents God and morality.
By saying "The falcon cannot hear the falconer," Yeats may be implying that society has lost sight of God and has lost the values and morals once held in place by the strong obedience to God. In another interpretation, Yeats may be saying that the falcon represents a war and the falconer represents the military power that has unleashed it to the point where all control is lost and faith in God has been abandoned. The next line of the poem explains this process; "things fall apart" indicates that the runaway war has sparked disorder in the public. "The centre cannot hold," signifies that the obedience to God has lost its value.
Even though there may be more than one interpretation, the metaphor points up one socio-religious theme that society has lost order and in turn lost faith in God. The second metaphor conveys Yeats' idea that anarchy has taken over. The metaphor begins with "The blood-dimmed tide is loosed," suggesting that the purity of the soul has been corrupted by the destruction that accompanies chaos. Yeats uses the second line of the metaphor, .".. and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned," to show how the value of life, health of country, and civilized order have died.
In this metaphor Yeats conveys his socio-religious idea that the deterioration of societal morals has led the way for anarchy to corrupt the religious purity of the individual. The third metaphor brings out Yeats' religious idea of the Second Coming of Christ. Yeats begins the second stanza with "Surely some revelation is at hand," alluding to the fact that the situation of anarchy and devastation is so grave it is crying out for the Second Coming of Christ. He uses the Sphinx, a soulless, lifeless, empty creature to represent the Spirutus Mundi or the spirit of the world. The "Rocking Cradle" waking up the sphinx refers to Jesus calling attention to the condition of the Spirutus Mundi. He ends the metaphor with a question mark, posing the question of whether the Second Coming will be good or evil.
The metaphor demonstrates Yeats's ocio-religious idea that because mankind has lost order, morality, and obedience to God, the Second Coming might not bring about a new beginning, but rather the end of Christianity. Through these metaphors, Yeats highlights his socio-religious belief that the breakdown of societal morals has reached the point where even the anticipated "Second Coming" is questioned as to whether it will be a positive new beginning or an evil resurrection.