“And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, / Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

Halloween approaches, friends, and what better way to ring it in than with the scariest freakin’ poem in the English language? That’s right: we’re bringing out W.B. Yeats’s “The Second Coming.”

Collected Yeats

You know it’s bad when “Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world” (l.4). I mean, anarchy is bad, not just “mere,” right? Really bad, à la The Dark Knight Rises? Turns out that’s just the start:

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. (ll.5-8)

 

And then there’s the Big Bad, as fellow Joss Whedon fans* might say: a thing, its gaze “blank and pitiless as the sun,” “A shape with lion body and the head of a man.” It’s the formlessness that’s frightening; there’s no sign of intelligence in the blank eyes. It’s inexorable, this shape. It’s not a lion with a man’s head, but a shape. And get this: it’s “moving its slow thighs.” It’s in no great rush to destroy the world, because the destruction is inevitable.  If that doesn’t give you the creeps, I don’t know what will.

Wait a second. Yes I do. This will:

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?

*First Evil, anyone?

[Honorable Mention, Children’s Category: “Seein’ Things,” Eugene Fields]

What’s your pick for scariest poem?

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