Yet Ernest N. Emenyonu’s claim that the Christian missionaries “convert the people from their old ways and religious beliefs and practises […] by sheer force of an obtrusive dogma” (85) cannot hold. Instead of an ‘obtrusive dogma’, it is the attractiveness of the new faith to all those who found themselves disadvantaged in some way or other under the old one; later on, it is also the attractiveness of the mission school, due to its connection with the colonial government. And although the Christians show some aggressive traits, ‘sheer force’ is always left to the colonial power.
But why not celebrate the trend instead? Yeats’s lines work outside their context because the word pairings are brilliant in and of themselves. “Blank and pitiless as the sun,” “stony sleep,” “vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle”—they’re both jarring and sonorous. Even “slouching towards,” probably the most overused phrase of them all, retains its ominousness after all this repetition. We’d expect the rough beast to “plod,” like a limping monster in a horror movie or the killer in No Country for Old Men (which itself, of course, takes its title from another of Yeats’s lines, in “Sailing to Byzantium”). But plodding is a conscious action; slouching is not. We can’t even tell whether the beast has a will of its own. The verb heightens the mystery and dread.