Dick Led Me to Yeats

Or perhaps it would make more sense to say that VALIS led me to The Second Comingand who knows where I will go from there?

(Yeah, that headline might possibly be designed to troll for hits.)

I discovered this poem – The Second Coming – by W.B. Yeats whilst reading Philip K. Dick’s VALIS trilogy.

I’m a little appalled that I recognize so many lines from this poem and yet have never read the poem itself till now.) The poem was written 95 years ago, but could very well have been written 95 minutes ago.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

We’ve lost our moorings. Worse, we’ve lost control of the death-dealing tools we used to wield so expertly.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold

We’ve become more tribal, less global, more extreme, less sensible.

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

ISIS anyone? As I write this, these animals have just beheaded an American journalist.

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

I can get pretty passionate about single malt scotch, but that’s about it. I used to be full of passionate intensity, but the fires have dimmed and the conviction has waned. Do I lack conviction because I’ve experienced to much? The answer is – naturally – I’m not sure.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The disorder and chaos surely mean something. Don’t they? Don’t they?

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight:

We stumble through the darkness, not thinking, merely reacting – predictably – to whatever stimulus we experience. 9/11 leads ineluctably to the Patriot Act and Homeland Security and Ferguson and ISIS and gods know what else. Wallenstein led to Bismarck led to Hitler. Luther led to Calvin led to the massacre of the Hugenots. There is nothing new under the sun.

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.

Have we awakened something ancient, something bigger and colder and deadlier than we can imagine? Will we even know it if we see it?

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?

What rough beast indeed?

Mister Dick was one of a kind, as was – I presume – Mister Yeats.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *