'Easter, 1916' by William Butler Yeats
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Michael Robartes and the Dancer1921I 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.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 winged 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.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.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.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Easter, 1916 by William Butler Yeats: A Criticism and Interpretation
William Butler Yeats' "Easter, 1916" is a classic poem that continues to captivate readers to this day. The poem is a reflection on the Easter Rising of 1916, a significant event in Irish history. It is a tribute to the rebels who fought and died for Irish independence. This poem has been praised for its beauty, its deep emotional impact, and its historical significance. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will take a closer look at the poem, its themes, its structure, and its language to better understand its significance and meaning.
Before we dive into the poem itself, it is important to provide some historical context. The Easter Rising was a rebellion that took place in Dublin, Ireland, in April 1916. A group of Irish republicans, led by Patrick Pearse and James Connolly, took over key buildings in the city and proclaimed the establishment of an Irish Republic. The rebellion was quickly put down by British forces, and many of the leaders were executed. The Easter Rising is considered a pivotal moment in Irish history, leading to the eventual independence of Ireland from British rule.
One of the most prominent themes in "Easter, 1916" is the idea of sacrifice. The poem pays tribute to those who fought and died in the Easter Rising, portraying them as martyrs who gave their lives for a greater cause. The poem also explores the idea of national identity, with the rebels being portrayed as heroes who were willing to fight for the independence of their country.
Another theme that runs throughout the poem is the idea of transformation. The poem begins by describing the "casual comedy" of everyday life, but this is juxtaposed with the "terrible beauty" of the Easter Rising, which transforms the landscape of Dublin. The poem suggests that the rebellion has transformed not only the physical city but also the people who live there, inspiring them to fight for their freedom.
The poem is written in four stanzas, each containing sixteen lines. The rhyme scheme is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG, with the final line of each stanza being repeated. This repetition adds emphasis to the final line of each stanza, which contains the names of the rebels who were executed. The structure of the poem is relatively simple, but it is effective in conveying the emotional impact of the Easter Rising.
One of the most striking aspects of the poem is its use of language. Yeats employs a range of literary devices to convey the emotional impact of the Easter Rising. For example, the poem contains a number of vivid and powerful images, such as "the grey, eighteenth-century houses," which are transformed by the rebellion. The poem also contains a number of metaphors, such as "a terrible beauty is born," which captures the transformation that has taken place.
Another notable aspect of the poem is its use of repetition. The final line of each stanza is repeated, which creates a sense of rhythm and emphasizes the importance of the names that are being repeated. The repetition of the final line also creates a sense of unity, linking the rebels who died together.
At its core, "Easter, 1916" is a tribute to the rebels who fought and died in the Easter Rising. The poem portrays them as heroes who were willing to sacrifice their lives for a greater cause. The poem suggests that their sacrifice has transformed not only the physical landscape of Dublin but also the people who live there. The rebels are portrayed as martyrs who have inspired others to fight for Irish independence.
The poem also explores the idea of national identity, suggesting that the rebels were fighting for the independence of their country. The poem suggests that national identity is something that is worth fighting for, even if it means sacrificing one's life. In this way, the poem is a celebration of Irish culture and identity.
The poem also contains a sense of sadness and loss. The repetition of the final line of each stanza emphasizes the names of the rebels who were executed, creating a sense of mourning for those who have died. The poem acknowledges that the cost of freedom is high and that the rebels who fought and died in the Easter Rising will never be forgotten.
In conclusion, "Easter, 1916" is a powerful and moving tribute to the rebels who fought and died in the Easter Rising. The poem explores themes of sacrifice, national identity, and transformation, using vivid language and powerful imagery to convey the emotional impact of the event. The poem is a celebration of Irish culture and identity, and a poignant reminder of the cost of freedom. "Easter, 1916" continues to be a beloved and important piece of Irish literature, capturing the spirit of a nation and its struggle for independence.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry Easter, 1916: A Masterpiece of Irish Literature
William Butler Yeats, one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, wrote the poem Easter, 1916 in response to the Easter Rising, a rebellion that took place in Dublin, Ireland, in April 1916. The poem is a tribute to the martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the cause of Irish independence. It is a powerful and moving piece of literature that captures the spirit of the Irish people and their struggle for freedom.
The poem is divided into four stanzas, each with sixteen lines. The first stanza sets the scene and describes the city of Dublin as it was before the rebellion. Yeats paints a picture of a city that is peaceful and quiet, where people go about their daily lives without a care in the world. He describes the "casual tramp" and the "grey eighteenth-century houses" that line the streets. The tone is one of nostalgia and longing for a simpler time.
In the second stanza, Yeats introduces the rebels who took part in the Easter Rising. He describes them as "polite and hesitant" and "dreaming of the perfect republic." He acknowledges that they were not perfect and that they made mistakes, but he also recognizes their bravery and their willingness to fight for what they believed in. He describes them as "passionate hearts" who were "too long kept in check."
The third stanza is the most powerful and emotional of the poem. Yeats lists the names of the rebels who were executed after the rebellion. He describes them as "beautiful and terrible" and "a terrible beauty is born." This line has become one of the most famous in Irish literature and has been interpreted in many different ways. Some see it as a celebration of the rebels and their sacrifice, while others see it as a warning about the dangers of violence and extremism.
The final stanza is a reflection on the aftermath of the rebellion. Yeats acknowledges that the rebels did not achieve their goal of independence, but he also recognizes that their sacrifice was not in vain. He describes how the "fumbling in a greasy till" has been replaced by a "terrible beauty" that has inspired a new generation of Irish patriots. He ends the poem with the line "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." This line is a powerful reminder that the sacrifice of the rebels has had a lasting impact on Irish history and culture.
The poem is a masterpiece of Irish literature and has been interpreted in many different ways over the years. Some see it as a celebration of Irish nationalism and the struggle for independence, while others see it as a warning about the dangers of extremism and violence. Regardless of how it is interpreted, it is a powerful and moving tribute to the rebels who sacrificed their lives for the cause of Irish freedom.
One of the most interesting aspects of the poem is the way in which Yeats portrays the rebels. He does not idealize them or portray them as perfect heroes. Instead, he acknowledges their flaws and their mistakes, but he also recognizes their bravery and their willingness to fight for what they believed in. This makes the poem more realistic and more powerful, as it shows that the rebels were ordinary people who were driven to extraordinary acts by their passion for their country.
Another interesting aspect of the poem is the way in which Yeats uses language to convey his message. He uses simple, everyday language to describe the city of Dublin before the rebellion, but he uses more poetic and powerful language to describe the rebels and their sacrifice. This contrast between the ordinary and the extraordinary makes the poem more powerful and more memorable.
In conclusion, Easter, 1916 is a masterpiece of Irish literature that captures the spirit of the Irish people and their struggle for freedom. It is a powerful and moving tribute to the rebels who sacrificed their lives for the cause of Irish independence. The poem is a reminder that the sacrifice of the rebels has had a lasting impact on Irish history and culture, and that their legacy will continue to inspire future generations of Irish patriots.
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