‘Easter 1916‘ was written in commemoration of the Irish nationalist who were sentenced to death after the Easter Rising that happened on a Monday 🗓️ on 24 April 1916. W. B Yeats first published the poem ‘Easter 1916’ in a magazine 📒 in the year 1920 and later in the collection ‘Michael Robartes and the Dancer’ in 1921. The General Post Office 📮 and other major sites in the capital city was seized by the revolutionaries on the day.
“I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born”.
The speaker of the poem Easter 1916 begins the poem saying that the speaker has met ‘them’. He is not revealing their identities. But we come to know that ‘them’ are involved in the monotonous works of their lives 😐. He comes across them. But he doesn’t share a proper conversation with them 🤐.
Why is the speaker of Easter 1916 not ready to have a proper conversation with the people around him? Does it signify something else 🤔?
The speaker admits that he wasn’t involved in proper conversations with the people around him other than giving them a nod of his head or some polite meaningless words. This is the sign of the conflict 🥴which is mentioned in the later stanzas.
He even used to mock those people when he was in the pub 🍾 to grab the attention of his friends. He certainly believes that those people and he lived in a world where motley 🤡 is worn which signifies that every individual has different faces in different circumstances.
He suddenly says that everything around him changed and everything is very different from what was there. He calls the change a ‘terrible beauty’ 😳He says the change was beautiful but it was terrible and horrific.
Oxymoron A figure of speech called oxymoron is what we call the usage ‘a terrible beauty’. An oxymoron is the juxposing of contradictory terms.
“That woman’s days were spent
In ignorant good-will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When, young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our wingèd horse;
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
A terrible beauty is born”.
Even though he wasn’t revealing the identities of the persons in the first stanza, he tries to describe their personalities in the second stanza. The readers can then assume who the speaker of Easter 1916 is talking about as he describes them. The names are not directly mentioned. He uses demonstratives to describe them.
Constance Gore-Booth Markievicz
Constance Gore-Booth Markievicz, is an Irish nationalist whom the speaker describes as ‘that woman’, the woman who argued for her people’s rights until her voice grew harsh 🗣️. The poet describes that her voice is the sweetest who chose to fight in her young and beautiful period of her life.
Patrick Pearse is the one who is described as ‘this man’. He was an educator 👨🏻🎓 and ran a school. The speaker of Easter 1916 describes that he was leading the revolutionaries. He was a poet at the same time.
Thomas MacDonagh is described by the speaker as ‘This other his helper and friend’. He possessed daring amd sweet thoughts to secure the rights of his people. He was the helper of Patrick Pearse and an activist, poet and playwright.
‘This other man’ is John MacBridge, a major in the Republican Army of Ireland 🇮🇪. Even though he participated in the revolution, the speaker addresses him as ‘A drunken, vainglorious lout’, with an aggression the speaker has against him. MacBridge had married his old friend and lover Maud Gonne and abused her 😏. He directly addressess this issue in the later lines as he says MacBridge has hurt some who is very close to his heart 😔.
Will he praise him for this act or disgrace him?
Yet, the speaker says that he is ready to include his name in his poem as he too like other revolutionaries have bid goodbye 👋 to the everyday life struggling to find his country’s freedom. The poet again repeats that everything around him has changed and the change was beautiful and terrible at the same time.
What is the term to describe a line that is repeatedly used in the poem 🤨?
Refrain is the term that is used to describe the lines which repeatedly occur in certain parts of the poem. It might be repeated to give a stress upon the idea.
Easter 1916 and the Images from Nature
“Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road,
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute by minute they live:
The stone’s in the midst of all”.
The Easter Rising is described in the third stanza using the images from nature. He says that the activists were very adamant in their decision, transforming their hearts to stones blocking them from receiving any other emotions. Love for their country was the only emotion their hearts 💕 felt.
Each and everything in nature changed. The horses 🐴 choose a road for once amd another for the next ride. The birds 🐦flew from from one cloud 🌥 to another. Even the shadow of clouds upon the stream changed minute by minute. Every creature from horses 🐴 to cocks 🐓 lived the moments of change and transformation but the activists were like stones, strong 💪 and stubborn to fight for their country.
“Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven’s part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse—
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born”.
The poet says that the long sacrifice of the activists have made their hearts strong devoid of emotions. And the poet doubts if it was needed? Was it necessary to conduct the Easter Rising which paved the deaths of hundreds…? 🤔
Even though he cannot find an answer for this question, he says that all we are left to do is to murmur 🗣️ their names and remember them always for making this sacrifice. We must murmur their names silently even if they don’t hear us. A mother murmurs her baby’s name in love as it sleeps even though it’s asleep 🤱🏼.
The speaker 🔊 says that the activists are indulged in the deep sleep 😴 between which we cannot wake them up. Night has approached them. And he corrects his verse saying that its not night, but death directly has conquered them.
He is still in doubt if the deaths of hundreds were necessary. The speaker asks himself whether England 🏴 would have kept their promise even if they don’t revolt against them. He then says that their excess love for their country might have led them to the revolt ⚔ .
The poet wishes to immortalise the rebels through his poem for their sacrifice. It is in the final lines of the stanza that he names out the activists. He says that they will be remembered wherever green is worn. Green signifies Ireland 🇮🇪 , which is known as the Emerald Isle. He ends the poem with the refrain that the change brought was beautiful and terrific.
Structure of Easter 1916 🗓
The structure of the poem is interesting. We see that the Easter Rising was on 24 April 1916 and there is a very interesting symbolic significance in the poem’s structure. The poem has four stanzas denoting April, the fourth month of the year. There are 16 lines in first and third stanza denoting the year 1916 and 24 lines in the third and fourth stanza denoting the date 24.
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Naeema JaleelWriter at Inclined Scorpio
On an extended process of giving birth to myself structuring own concepts & beliefs.
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