"The Second Coming" describes William Butler Yeats' views about the universe and the future, and the vision is chaotic and unpleasant, a dark twisting of the conventional beliefs about the afterlife as expressed in the New Testament. The imagery and the structure mirror the dark meanings at work in the poem.
The images in the poem are frightening omens of things to come in the future. The falcon is turning in an ever-widening spiral, beyond the point where it can hear the falconer controlling it. This loss of control is a reflection of events in the world, where "the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned." The people in the world with ethics have lost their sense of purpose, but the people with the darkest intentions retain their "passionate intensity."
These images make the speaker move on to a vision of the "Second Coming," but this is not a Messiah but instead the collective spirit of humanity: a sphinx in the midst of the desert that has a "gaze as blank and pitiless as the sun." The poem's violent, stunning imagery suggests that the Second Coming is not to be as glorious as the Church would suggest.