What Rough Beast?

The change in leadership in the United States has a prompted a tsunami of fear across the country and further across the world. Take a deep breath. We’re OK. We have always been OK, no matter what the outward appearances.

I’ve been heartened by a slew of spiritual blogs that take on the challenge of finding good in these changes. The encouraging messages come in a number of flavors, from asserting that all things move together for the good, to the belief that the world of appearances is a distorted projection of our fear. Some say that odd historical turns can produce disruptions that allow for light to enter, while others turn to Martin Luther King’s words and proclaim that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

W.B. Yeats has an interesting view. He believed that Christ’s appearance on earth set forth 2,000 years of strife and struggle, that a gentle saint prompted a dark backlash twenty centuries long.

He also believed that a second coming would arrive – around now — with thunder and darkness, and this second coming – this rough beast as he called it – but usher in 2,000 years of light and love. His poem, The Second Coming addresses these beliefs. Here’s the last verse:

The Second Coming by W.B. Yeats

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?


2 thoughts on “What Rough Beast?

  1. Great response, Hariod. In my view, probably it is. Yeats wrote the poem in the 30s when anarchy in Europe was very threatening. The poem opens with that consideration:

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

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