"The Second Coming" is a poetic description of a lurid scene. In the first stanza, the speaker tells of a falcon, lost in a "widening gyre," that is unable to the call of its falconer. ("Coming" 1) The speaker continues, "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosened upon the world, / The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned." ("Coming" 3-6) This is to say that a global apathy has developed for all things good that are preserved by innocence. The speaker emphasizes her/his point with the concluding lines of the first stanza. "The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity." ("Coming" 7-8).
In the second Stanza, the speaker addresses an imminent revelation: the Second Coming. The speakers thoughts of a Second Coming are the impetus behind her/his troubling image of Spiritus Mundi (Latin for spirit of the world). This Spiritus Mundi is the spirit of the human race. This is represented by "A shape with a lion body and the head of a man," with "A gaze bland and pitiless as the sun;" namely, a sphinx. ("Coming" 14-15) The beast (the spirit of mankind) moves slowly, casting shadows; inhibiting the speaker's sight. The speaker continues stating her/his knowledge that the beast's twenty centuries of rest were disturbed by a single birth, "a rocking cradle." ("Coming" 20) Te speaker concludes wondering whom or what "slouches toward Bethlehem to be born." ("Coming" 21).
The majority of "The Second Coming" is written in free verse with unfrequented instances of iambic pentameter. An example of the aforementioned is "The falcon cannot hear the falconer." ("Coming" 2) In addition to a majority of free verse, the poem is dominated by free rhyme, with exceptions including "gyre" and "falconer" and "hold" and "word." .
Yeats utilizes a wealth of literary devices to enhance the meaning of his poem. Allusion is used to describe the ending of one era and the chaotic transition into the beginning of another era.