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Easter 1916 : William Butler Yeats - Summary and Critical Analysis

Easter 1916 by William Butler Yeats is a poem about an Irish immature revolutionary plan which became unsuccessful to overthrow the British reign in Ireland. About fifteen hundred people participated in this revolution to seize the government office building of Dublin on Easter morning, but three hundred of them were killed on the spot, and more than two hundred people were taken as prisoner and tortured.

The Irish ship importing weapons from Germany for the planned attack to the British authority was intercepted by the British army a week before and nothing seemed to be in favor of the revolutionaries for the time being. The poet, like many people, had advised them not to go for that rash action and that is why he had expressed his hatred for the foolish people in this poem. On the other hand, at the height of the war, those Irish patriots had enacted a heroic conflict with England to get freedom for the country. So, the poem is terribly ambivalent in its tone and attitude.

In Easter 1916, poet begins with a criticism of the politicians both living and those who are dead in the recent revolution. Yeats was deeply moved by the heroism and the martyrdom of the rebels. He saw the whole Irish scene transformed by the tragedy of execution. The heroes of the rebellion-Pearse, Connolly, McDonough and MacBride-all became symbol of heroic martyrdom. In the first stanza, the poet speaks of the politicians whom he meets at close day in the parliament. The politicians are sitting in the counter without any work on their desk. The poet meets with people coming out of their homes or offices and greets them with a nod of his head and with words of mere formality without any significance. He also narrates to entertain his companions at the club some ridiculous tit-bit or make someone the target of his taunt. He is certain that all of them are living where life consist of a mixture...
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