Is W.B. Yeats’s ‘The Second Coming’ the Most Pillaged Piece of Literature in the English Language?

Longreads

[W.B. Yeats’s 1919 poem] The Second Coming” may well be the most thoroughly pillaged piece of literature in English. (Perhaps Macbeth’s famous “sound and fury” monologue is a distant second.) Since Chinua Achebe cribbed Yeats’s lines for Things Fall Apart in 1958 and Joan Didion for Slouching Towards Bethlehem a decade later, dozens if not hundreds of others have followed suit, in mediums ranging from CD-ROM games to heavy-metal albums to pornography. These references have created a feedback loop, leading ever more writers to draw from the poem for inspiration. But how many of them get it right?

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In the wake of Didion’s success, publishers have come to realize they can apply Yeats’s lines to pretty much any book that documents confusion and disarray. Thus Elyn Saks’s 2008 memoir, The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness, concerning her bout with schizophrenia. Though these four words from…

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About chimerapoet

I write. I write a lot. A. LOT. There are times I am half blind with a sentence ricocheting off the walls of my stupid, cant be shut off to save my life, brain. I am miserable until I get it down on paper. Punch it up a bit. Usually cross out half of it. And then breathe. Relax. Only to do it all again..... But I just thought that was me. How I am. Not a writer....noooo...not me. Writers are.....writing people. People Who Write. REALLY write. Write things that matter. All grown up very important things. Not.....me. I am just a scribbler of sorts. And I was/am content with that....if it's true, well then....a scribbler am I. Until the thought wormed its way in to my brain (the furtive sneaky bitch) that maybe...just maybe...that is writing. My style. My strange way. But....still writing. So here I am at the dance. Not sure I know any of the moves and the music is entirely mine. But.....only one way to find out. Would you care to join me?
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