I am intrigued by the expression "Slouching toward X". A few of the Xs I have seen are Bethleheim, Athens, Utopia, Armageddon.

What does the expression connote? Is it a prepositional idiom or is there a literary allusion?
Thanks.
Ashok
PS: Is there a good reference for literary allusions on the net? And for prepositional idioms?
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I am intrigued by the expression "Slouching toward X". A few of the Xs I have seen are Bethleheim, Athens, Utopia, Armageddon. What does the expression connote? Is it a prepositional idiom or is there a literary allusion?

It's based on WB Yeats's poem "The Second Coming":

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 convictions, 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 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?
As for connotation, a quick Google establishes that people use the "slouching toward(s)" concept in many ways as best suits their purpose. As you see from the poem, Yeats was originally suggesting that the "second coming" would not be of the bright haloed Saviour of popular belief but something infinitely more terrible.
PS: Is there a good reference for literary allusions on the net? And for prepositional idioms?

This is the place. You found it.

John Dean
Oxford
I am intrigued by the expression "Slouching toward X". A few of the Xs I have seen are Bethleheim, Athens, Utopia, Armageddon. What does the expression connote? Is it a prepositional idiom or is there a literary allusion?

Indeed, there is:
The Second Coming
(W. B. Yeats)
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 convictions, 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 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?
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I am intrigued by the expression "Slouching toward X". A few of the Xs I have seen are Bethleheim, Athens, ... literary allusion? Thanks. Ashok PS: Is there a good reference for literary allusions on the net? And for prepositional idioms?

It means moving resignedly, or slowly and without much enthusiasm. towards the destination.
I am intrigued by the expression "Slouching toward X". A ... it a prepositional idiom or is there a literary allusion?

Indeed, there is: The Second Coming (W. B. Yeats) Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear ... blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all convictions, while the worst

I suspect you and John Dean cribbed from the same source, since you both have plural "convictions" here. Google weighs in with about 5 times more cites for singular "conviction", but I don't have an authoritative print source handy.
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

I've seen versions in which /Spiritus Mundi/ is italicized, but again I don't have an authoritative source.
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert A shape with lion body and the head of a man, ... by a rocking cradle, And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Good. Now do it from memory, complete with correct punctuation. :-)

Jim Heckman, who can (I really like this poem)
I suspect you and John Dean cribbed from the same source, since you both have plural "convictions" here.

I suspect that John and I both found sites with the same wording. Whether we cribbed from the same site is up in the air: the web is well-known for having the same error repeated through hundreds or even thousands of sites from cross-cribbing.
Google weighs in with about 5 times more cites for singular "conviction", but I don't have an authoritative print source handy.

Then get one. While your Google census gives the right answer, relying on Google counts is about the stupidest way I can think of to get an answer. In fact, it is more likely that 99% of the sites your Google search found cribbed from each other than that John and I found the same site. An error (or lie) can propogate across web sites faster than an undergraduate can retype a term paper in his house's archives.
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My Collected Works (vol. I: The Poems , ed. Richard J. Finneran, Macmillan, 1989), which calls itself "The complete, standard edition", has both the singular "conviction" and the italics. Apparently the poem was originally published in a volume titled Michael Robartes and the Dancer , in 1921, but the copy-text used by Finneran was the 1933 Collected Poems . The apparatus makes no mention of emendations.

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

I hope I slouched towards my birth. Start the way you mean to go on, that's what I say.

Phil C.
Can't find Yeats amid the chaos, but the Norton Anthology of Modern English Poetry also has "conviction", "towards" (as one might expect) and italics for "Spiritus Mundi". I suppose the italics are the reason for the persistent rumour that the SM is a medieval religious work.
OBaue, and speaking of correct punctuation: the last lines, in which a statement and a question are linked by "and", would be slightly more comfortable without the question mark: "what rough beast" would be another thing the poet knows. It's still a linking of a clause with a phrase, of course. I wonder if he changed the punctuation while revising.
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