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Referenced By / The Second Coming

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References in fiction to the poem "The Second Coming" by William Butler Yeats.

Anime and Manga

  • Sailor Moon: Act 39 of the Dream arc sees Hotaru reciting lines of Yeats' poem shortly before and during her own reawakening as the senshi of destruction, complete with spontaneous aging.


  • There is a Batman miniseries titled The Widening Gyre, by Kevin Smith.
  • Peter David quotes the poem in The Incredible Hulk #425.
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  • V for Vendetta naturally contains references to the poem.
  • Beast quotes it in X-Factor #70, also by Peter David. Colossus thinks it's from Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov ("it sounded Russian").

Fan Works

  • In Star Trek: Voyager fanfic Outrage, the Doctor has painted Seven of Nine against the background of a red giant sun setting over an ocean, turning the waves blood-red. He titles the painting Ceremony of Innocence.

Film - Live Action

  • A deleted scene from Nixon has CIA Director Richard Helms quote the first stanza and final lines to Nixon during a heated passive-aggressive standoff in the former's office, after musing about death.


  • American Gods: The New Gods tend to speak in cliches, so it's not surprising that one of them had the whole damn poem memorized.
  • Parodied by eccentric bum Bert Nix in The Big U by Neal Stephenson.
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  • Gerald Astor's history book, A Blood-Dimmed Tide: The Battle of the Bulge by the Men Who Fought It.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Harry Dresden alludes to the poem during his Badass Boast at the end of Storm Front. "The world is getting weirder. Darker every single day. Things are spinning around faster and faster, and threatening to go completely awry. Falcons and falconers. The center cannot hold..."
    • Cold Days: There's a double-barreled Shout-Out when Bob calls Harry the embodiment of "Things fall apart". This Yeats quote is also a repeating liefmotif in Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus! - which also deals with a human world intruded into by non-human things of Magic seeking to bring about Armageddon. The idea of something inhumanly evil being deliberately sprung from its prison of millenia to wreak havoc in the world is an Illuminatus! theme too.
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  • The last line of Good Omens describes the Anti Anti Christ as "slouching hopefully towards Tadfield".
  • Recited by the poet Martin Silenus in Hyperion. He doesn't take it too seriously.
  • The second novel in Rennie Airth's John Madden mystery series is entitled The Blood-Dimmed Tide.
  • Woody Allen titled one of his books Mere Anarchy.
  • The individual books in the series The Remembrance War, by Michael R. Johnston, are named after the poem: the first two are The Widening Gyre and The Blood Dimmed Tide.
  • In The Science of Discworld, a wizard trying to figure out real-world physics deduces that "Things fall apart, but centres hold."
  • Joan Didion titled one of her books Slouching Towards Bethlehem.
  • Stephen King's The Stand: Quoted by Starkey, a US Army general who oversaw a project to engineer a super-virus, which has now escaped and will certainly destroy civilization. "The beast is on its way. It's on its way, and it's a good deal rougher than that fellow Yeets ever could have imagined. Things are falling apart. The job is to hold as much as we can for as long as we can."
  • In The Star of the Guardians, "The center cannot hold" is the activation code for a doomsday device called a "space-rotation bomb," which is appropriate for something that creates a Negative Space Wedgie.
  • In the Star Trek Novel Verse:
    • The miniseries Star Trek: Mere Anarchy is named for the poem, as are its six parts: Things Fall Apart, The Centre Cannot Hold, Shadows of the Indignant, The Darkness Drops Again, The Blood-Dimmed Tide and Its Hour Come Round.
    • Jean-Luc Picard quotes the poem in Brinkmanship, the last book of Star Trek: Typhon Pact, as a possible explanation why war with the Tzenkethi and the rest of the Typhon Pact now seems inevitable. Ezri Dax is having none of it, however:
    “So why were people so ready to let it happen? Where were all the good guys when we needed them?”
    The best lacked all conviction,” suggested Picard.
    “Yes, yes, and the worst were full of passionate intensity. But that’s not true, is it? I don’t lack conviction. And neither do you.”
  • Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe's best known work.
  • One of Harry Turtledove's Timeline-191 novels is called The Center Cannot Hold.
  • The Widening Gyre, a Robert B. Parker novel about political corruption.
  • Rolling Steel: A Pre-Apocalyptic Love Story opens thus:
    Rough Beast slouched toward the Bethlehem steel mill.

Live-Action TV

  • Andromeda: The first season finale is called "Its Hour Come 'Round At Last". Season 2 gives us "The Widening Gyre" and "Pitiless as the Sun".
  • Angel: An episode entitled "Slouching Toward Bethlehem" forebodes the arrival of a demon known as The Beast, who appears to be bringing some kind of Apocalypse.
  • G'Kar quotes the poem in Babylon 5, equating the escalating prelude to the Shadow War to things falling apart.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003). In "The Plan", the nonsense babbled by a Hybrid as the Cylons are about to nuke the 12 Colonies includes the line, "The centre holds; the falcon hears the falconer" (an inversion of the actual line). Presumably a statement that, for the Cylons at least, their plan is coming together, as opposed to things falling apart (which happens later on).
  • Heroes: One episode replaced the standard episode-ending Mohinder Fauxlosophic Narration with him reciting the poem in whole, which was a vast improvement.
  • In The Librarians, the Serpent Brotherhood sport snake tattoos incorporating the lines "The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned;", albeit in Latin. Recognizing the quotation (not to mention being able to read it in the first place) provides Jacob Stone with an Establishing Character Moment proving that despite looking and sounding like a roughneck, he is highly educated and very observant.
  • Sons of Anarchy: Two episodes in season 3 are titled "Turning and Turning" and "The Widening Gyre". Appropriately, given the political context in which the poem was written, this season heavily featured the True IRA and almost every episode was set at least partially in Belfast.


  • Black Metal band Anaal Nathrakh have a song entitled "The Blood-Dimmed Tide" which appears on their 2012 album Vanitas.
  • Lou Reed opens his 1978 live album Take No Prisoners with this:
    I wanna read a quote from Yates. "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity" - now you figure out where I'm at!

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