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Easter 1916 by W.B. Yeats
Transcript of Easter 1916 by W.B. Yeats
Yeats was the most important Irish poet in 1916 .
This poem is his response to the most important event to take place in Ireland for some years.
Yeats saw it as his duty to commemorate the Easter Rising.
Easter 1916 by W.B. Yeats
Yeats refers to those involved in the Rising who were known to him: Constance Markievicz, Patrick Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh and John MacBride.
Even MacBride, whom Yeats disliked because of his relationship with Maud Gonne, is included in the poem.
Yeats compares the rebels' patriotism and dedication to their country to a stone in a stream.
All around the stone, life goes on: birds, horses, clouds go past.
But the stone is in the 'midst of it all': it remains steady. In the same way, the rebels are unshaken in their desire to fight for Irish freedom - nothing else in their lives can distract them.
Yeats warns that for those who become too dedicated to a particular cause, their hearts can turn to stone.
Yeats emphasises the need to mourn the deaths of the rebels, to 'murmur name upon name'.
Yeats questions whether or not the deaths of the rebels was necessary. When he says 'England may keep faith' he is referring to the possibility that Ireland will be granted Home Rule after the war, with or without a rebellion.
But he finishes the poem as a commemoration: he lists the names of those who gave their lives and restates the central paradox of the poem: 'a terrible beauty is born'.
Yeats acknowledges that he had underestimated Irish nationalists: he admits that he mocked them among his friends in the past, but now he realises he was wrong.
Introduces the paradox at the centre of the poem: Yeats describes the Rising as a 'terrible beauty' - the event has changed Ireland forever, Yeats seems uncertain whether this is a good or bad thing.