The Rough Beast

  Fourteen years ago, and in the wake of "Operation Cast Lead" - the first of Israel's brutal attacks on Gaza, I created the scene pictured above. It was a pictorial representation of WB Yeats famous poem "The Second Coming", which seemed to me to relate to the terrible events in Gaza and the people who had conceived and executed them.   

 Exactly who or what Yeats was referring to in the "rough beast slouching towards Bethlehem to be born" remains rather obscure, as people choose to put their own interpretation on it, depending on who they see as evil personified. One can find plenty of scholarly explanations online, but like speculation on the thinking of those who constructed Stonehenge these may be no closer to Yeats' thinking. There is also the possibility that Yeats himself was not clear about what he was thinking - poetry is after all an intuitive and artistic endeavour.  

 This leaves me free to put my own interpretation on his poem - as I did in 2009, and will do again now, when that demonic vision seems particularly applicable to today's catastrophe in the Holy Land.  
 My picture contains the elements of Yeats' verse but was constructed from photographs taken in Iran in 2008 - with the exception of the Separation Wall for obvious reasons. (an Iranian visa will not be issued to those who have visited the 'Zionist Entity').
  My 'Rough Beast' is one of the great stone figures at the entrance gate into Persepolis, the palace of Darius near Shiraz in Iran. The background landscape is from somewhere in the Iranian desert, along with the door in the wall and the pomegranate tree, seen in an ancient mudbrick village near Yazd. A Saker falcon flies above, while a Madonna lily lies on the ground - symbolising for me the "loss of innocence". The woman waiting at the door was photographed sitting on a prayer rug in a mosque in Shiraz. 
 Nothing much has changed in those fourteen years in Palestine, except that the rough beast now looks a lot larger and more menacing. More to the point, what seemed back then to be a rather morbid and overdone vision of the 'blood-dimmed tide' no longer looks exaggerated. Neither did it when Yeats wrote his reflections following the Great War, and in the shadow of that great blood-letting.
   The Second Coming.    WB Yeats c. 1919.

 "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.

  Surely some revelation is at hand;
  Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
  The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
  when a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
  troubles my sight; somewhere in the 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.

  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?

   It was a while before I understood those first few lines - "the falcon cannot hear the falconer" - and then saw them as a metaphor for inhuman military actions, where armies gain a life of their own. As such this is now a metaphor for the Israelis' indiscriminate slaughter of innocents in Gaza, which has recommenced as I write this. The 'Falconer' - the Western powers who have armed the Zionists and unshackled them to do what they will - now has no control, either on the blue and white falcon or on the behaviour of its prey - the armies of the Resistance. 

  It is too soon to say what this behaviour may be, but there is little doubt a 'blood-dimmed tide' will drown those voices of moderation who still believe their falcon can be restrained. After twenty years of training in hatred and contempt for Palestine's native population, the armies of Israel's Youth see only their target, full of passionate intensity and blood-lust. 

 But the rough beast's hour has come round, at last, and the monster being midwifed in Bethlehem is worse than we could ever imagine.

DM 1.12.23