According to Yeats, politics and art could not be divorced from one another and that they were linked intrinsically. As a result, Yeats used his poem which is a form of art to express his political view or attitude about Irish politics while at the same time educating the readers of his poem about the cultural history of Irish people. From a young age, Yeats felt connected to Irish national identity. He believed that Irish social life and politics were negatively affected by British rule. His earlier literary works of folklore were meant to inform us of the Irish literary history that had earlier been suppressed by England. As a result, his earlier poems were tribute or odes that explained the mystery and beauty of the Irish nation. His work integrated mythical references such as Cuchulain and Oisin. His poems portrayed political manifestos as he became involved with Irish politics. He thought that art played a vital political function as it could comment and critique political events, inform and educate the public. Yeats W.B, wrote Easter, 1916 poem to describe his emotions about the events of Easter uprising that was staged by Irish republican army against the rule of England. Yeats was a committed nationalist who rejected violence as a way attaining independence of the Irish people. As a result of this, Yeats had nervy relationship with some of the leaders of Irish army who ultimately led the revolt against British rule. Death of revolutionary leaders at hands of England not only shocked Yeats but also the ordinary Irish people of that time who never expected events to turn worse within the shortest time frame.
Yeats’ feeling about revolutionary movement and his insistence that terrible beauty had been born were the premonition about the execution of uprising leaders by England, whose effect were opposite to what the British intended. The merciless and brutal killing instead of the suppressing the Irish army, it reinvigorated the movement. Yeats admits his view about the movement was different from that advocated by rebel army (6 & 10). However, his attitude changes to the mode of unity that unified all characters when the leaders of the rebel movement were executed (15-16). The key figures of the uprising are described by Yeats in the second stanza through allusion without listing names. Countess Markievicz, a female revolutionary well known to Yeats is described at the opening of the stanza. Patrick Pearse is described as a person that kept the school and rode winged horse. Thomas MacDonagh as described as a helper and friend of Pearse. Yeats communicates the feeling he had about the three leaders of the uprising. He contrast the sweet voice of Countess Markievicz when she was young and her shrill voice as a revolutionary; he contrast Pearse’s haughty public figure and his impression of sensitivity and how he dared to keep his ideals even though he resorted to violence. In addition, Yeats shows differential feelings toward the three figures. Though he had positive feelings about the three revolutionary leaders, he despised John MacBride, the husband of Maud Gonne, whom Yeats had romantic feeling for many years. John MacBride abused his wife and daughter in the course of their marriage.
The third stanza abandons first- person narration and moves to natural realm of birds, streams and clouds. The narrator elaborates the theme of change over time (48&50) and introduces the symbolic stone that open and close the stanza. Though there are many images presented in the stanza such as moving clouds, changing seasons, sliding horse- hoof that are transience, stone symbolizes permanence. The purpose of revolutionaries’ fixedness is compared to that of stone (43). A stone disturbing or troubling living stream (44) is the metaphorical representation of the contrast between steadfastness of revolutionaries and the transience shifting of popular mode. Their purpose, which leads to their deaths, depicts the indifference and complacency of Irish society of that time.
Fate, divine and history
Yeats was devoted mystic believer who developed a philosophical system that stressed the importance of fate in historical determinism. In other words, that the events that happen were already predetermined or preordained. Yeats believed that fate determines history and that the plan of fate is revealed when human beings and divine forces interact. In the fourth stanza, the imagery of stony heart (57-58) is used by Yeats to portray the determined struggle of the revolutionaries with regard turbulent and long history of England colonialism that had profound psychological cost on the people of Ireland. According to Yeats, Heaven has a role in determining when the suffering has to end and when sacrifices of revolutionaries will be considered to be enough (59-60). Yeats narrates that the role of people who are left behind when revolutionaries are sacrificed have a duty of remembering those who have fallen in quest of ensuring that Irish people are independent and living freely without coercion(60-63). Yeats wonders whether the sacrifices of revolutionaries were warranted (67) because England could still use the repressive Home Rule, an Act of 1914 even when there was no uprising. Yeats knew that it was hard for the aspirations of the revolutionaries to be achieved within the shortest time frame. He narrates that the events that have already happened cannot be undone, and that what is important is for the Irish people to remember the dreams of the revolutionaries and carry on (72). In the end, Yeats eulogizes members of the uprising by using green (78) though he abhors the use of green color in political discourse.
McGarry, Fearghal. The Rising Ireland : Easter 1916. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010. Print.
Yeats, W. B. “Easter, 1916” and Other Poems. Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications, 1997. Print.
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