The Beast and the Lion


The Beast and the Lion: issues of transcendence in the poetry of Yeats and Iqbal (2007) was published by Iqbal Academy Pakistan. It was one of my earliest attempts to implement the Iqbalian framework for a comparative study of literature after reconstructing that framework in The Republic of Rumi: a Novel of Reality (2007). It received much praise from some eminent scholars at that time due to its fresh approach but I would very much like to revise it some time soon, especially to make it non-judgmental towards poets whose worldviews differed from that of Iqbal (such as W. B. Yeats).

  • Comparative literature
  • W. B. Yeats, Allama Iqbal and John Keats

  • Apocalyptic visions of Iqbal and Yeats

  • Are we living in good times or bad?


By the author
Things As They Are


Khurram Ali Shafique
Khurram Ali ShafiquePresidential Iqbal Award
Khurram Ali Shafique is the author of several books on Iqbal, including “Iqbal: an Illustrated Biography”, for which he received Presidential Iqbal Award, and the recently published “Iqbal: His Life and Our Times”. He has vast experience as an educationist. He is the founder of Marghdeen Learning Centre and is the pioneer of online courses in Iqbal Studies, which he has been conducting since May 2011.

About the book

How do we explain the fact that the vision described by Yeats of a rough beast slouching towards Bethlehem in the poem ‘The Second Coming’ was also sighted by Iqbal a dozen years before and described in an equally apocalyptic poem?

Yeats’s description of the beast was:

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.

This poem was first published in 1919 and anthologized in 1921. Iqbal, in his poem ‘March 1907’, has written a dozen years before:

The lion that leapt out of the desert and overturned the Great Roman Empire
Will be reawakened, so have I heard from angels.

It is obvious that both poets were talking about the same thing: a lion with human attributes, the backdrop of the desert, a threat for the dominant world civilization, a reawakening of some sort, and a supernatural source of information (angels in the case of Iqbal and Spiritus Mundi in the case of Yeats).

The failing of the current approaches in literary criticism become evident from the fact that this very obvious similarity has never been noticed, not even in Pakistan where many educated people are familiar with both poems. The comparison becomes crucially important when we notice that the responses of Yeats and Iqbal to their common vision were exactly opposite: what was a good omen to one was a threat to the other.