Easter 1916 Analysis
by William Butler Yeats
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 of rebellion and politics, but before Easter 1916, they obediently conformed to England's rule rather than actively pursing change. The imagery...
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