William Butler Yeats, (June 13, 1865 d. June 28, 1939) is known today as one of the greatest poets of the English language from the 20th century. He was born in Dublin and raised as an Anglo-Irish Protestant. Yeats's father attended Trinity College providing young William with an intellectual heritage. This aristocratic position, combined with his mother's emotional heritage, which encompassed rural culture in the trade of ship-builders, gave Yeats a different perspective from many of his contemporaries. He attended Dublin Art School. He began to write poetry at the age of 18. His interests in Irish legends and occults flooded his poetry and he often alluded to many old Irish myths. As he grew older, his obsession with his age and death became apparent in his poetry: "The land of the Feary
where nobody gets old and godly and grave
where nobody gets old and crafty and wise
where nobody gets old and bitter of tongue."
Yeats also became increasingly attached to the country of Sligo. Interest in the occult led him to the Dublin Hermetic Society and to join (in 1887) the London Lodge of Theosophists. Yeats's encounter with John O'Leary caused him to envision Ireland as the primary literary subject of his poetry, as well as the commitment to the cause of Irish national identity, as expressed in "Easter 1916." In 1889, he fell in love with Maud Gonne and alluded to his love in the 1899 poem, "The Wind among the Reeds," through symbolic, stylized, and expressive verse. In 1986, he befriended Lady Isabella Augusta Gregory. She resided in Coole Park and Yeats's frequent visits to this mystical place gave rise to new topics and a model of "social grace." In 1900, he became the head of the Order of the Golden Dawn in London, and in 1902, he was appointed President of the Irish National Theatre Society later known as the Abbey Theatre.
Yeats devoted great attention to the rebellion of 1916, as well as the independence of Ireland from England granted in 1922, and evolved as key themes throughout his poetry, characterizing the Middle Yeats period.
In this stanza Yeats describes the people, or "vivid faces"(2), he sees in everyday life. They are insignificant to Yeats as individuals, however each of them shares a certain bond with him. They are all united in a fight for their homeland of Ireland. In lines 6 and 8, Yeats states that all he says to the people on the street are "polite meaningless words"(6). The fact that what he says to these people is always meaningless, shows how insignificant they are. And yet they all live together in the same country of Ireland. The lines: "Being certain that they and I / But lived where motley is worn,"(13-14) add to the fact that each citizen, like Yeats, is well aware that they share a common identity. The final line of the stanza: "A terrible beauty is born,"(16) describes the people of Ireland as they come together and work towards the goal of Irish independence from England. The birth of these united people is terrible because the fight for independence will inevitably cause bloodshed and death. It is also beautiful because the people are finally uniting and standing up for their beloved country. This is the first time this line is introduced to the poem. It is repeated throughout the poem and creates the poem's main theme.
Although Yeats memorializes the patriots of Easter 1916, He conveys their humanity and imperfections. Yeats illustrates the stagnant indifference and conformity in Ireland prior to the Rebellion through his description of the leading figures in the Easter Rebellion. Yeats characterizes Constance Markievicz as a figure of "ignorant good-will, / Her night in argument / Until her voice grew shrill " (18-20). Through this portrayal of Markievicz, Yeats suggests that the dream of Irish independence has not yet become reality because people talked...
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