top of page

Easter, 1916 by WB Yeats

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

This is a live discussion of the poem by WB Yeats "Easter, 1916." I will do a reading of the poem followed by a discussion. Ask your questions or make your comments live on the show.

Easter, 1916


I have met them at close of day

Coming with vivid faces

From counter or desk among grey

Eighteenth-century houses.

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 wingèd 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,

Transformed utterly:

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.


September 25, 1916


00:00:00:00 - 00:01:11:07


We make out of the quarrel with others rhetoric. But of the quarrel with ourselves. Poetry. Welcome to Sunday Morning. Poetry. Today I thought I would discuss the radical, rebellious, heroic poem of morning and loss and confusion and ambivalence of Easter 1916 by William Butler Yeats. Now, this is a poem that is comes out of, as Yeats says here in this quote, I just said, We make a out of the quarrel with others rhetoric, persuasive speech, but the quarrel with ourselves, poetry and this is art, the realm of coming up with how to deal with some of our own inner confusions.

00:01:11:10 - 00:01:42:29


I think that's a perfect poem for a perfect quote for Easter 1916. Understanding all that's going on there. Easter 1916 by Yeats or Yeats is considered by many to be one of the most powerful 20th century political poems and not political poems in the sense of some kind of rhetorical purpose behind it or propaganda. This is a poem.

00:01:43:02 - 00:02:13:00


It's a poem. It's about finding meaning in something and in this particular case, meaning in what he is trying to comprehend and trying to deal with about this date. Easter 1916. This is a poem that could be read in a variety of different manners and a variety of different levels. And I'm going to give you a couple of readings to help you get the most out of this poem.

00:02:13:00 - 00:02:38:14


It is a poem about rebellion. It is a poem about death. And killing and freedom and what it costs. And is it worth it? It's a question we often don't think about when we think about all the freedom that we have. For instance, in America. Was it worth all the death?

00:02:38:17 - 00:03:08:03


So William Butler Yeats wrote this poem shortly after, and I'm going to give you a basic background without all the details. And this actually has allusions to many specific details. I don't think you need to know all of them in order to get something out of this poem. You can still really enjoy the poem, but there's some context that you really need to, I think, to understand this is written in and about Ireland.

00:03:08:05 - 00:03:33:17


Yates is from Dublin. I mean, it's kind of like if we write about 911 and somebody doesn't know what 911 is, which I think we might someday soon, if not already have kids and, you know, young people who are born right afterwards who don't really know about it or anything that really happen other than they might have heard some reference on TV.

00:03:33:19 - 00:04:03:26


And even then, in 50 years, is that really going to happen? I mean, I think young kids don't always know about D-Day. It's very rare that they seem to know these dates. This was written right after this momentous event. Easter 1916 or the Easter Rebellion, The Irish rebellion against British rule. And if you know anything a little bit about history, this happens in the middle of World War One.

00:04:03:28 - 00:04:29:29


Now, some of the context is that there have been for many years a fight within Ireland between Ireland and Great Britain or Britain in order to have home rule or even complete freedom for Ireland. The Irish wanted their own rule in I think it was just I don't know the exact date, but right before 1914 or before the outset of war.

00:04:30:01 - 00:04:53:20


There were talks that for an agreement to come together in order to settle and have the Irish have home rule and win the war, World War One started in 1914. The British came to the Irish and they said, Well, we've got other fish to fry right now. You're going to have to wait, but send your men over here.

00:04:53:22 - 00:05:17:04


Send your young men to fight. We need to fight. The Irish actually considered joining the Germans because they wanted freedom, but they decided to stick with the British folk and they went with the British and they fought with them. But things were continuing and they weren't getting home rule. And it was a bloody war. And they're like, Why are we fighting this?

00:05:17:04 - 00:05:47:28


And all these things happened. And there was a rebellion. The rebellion was of a couple thousand people, wasn't it wasn't a massive rebellion, but also sufficient rebellion. It was, I believe was something like 400 people died. A couple of thousand were shipped off to Britain. It was a rough uprising within Ireland, the Easter rebellion that the during World War One the British had to send troops to.

00:05:48:00 - 00:06:14:00


So British had to take time out of what, overrun to some degree and go to Ireland to take care of this rebellion. And, you know, of course, I think that might have had a lot to do with all the anxiety and what the British did next. But once the British put this rebellion down, which, by the way, I should I do need to say, because I think this is important, all of Ireland was not 100% on board with this rebellion at this time.

00:06:14:02 - 00:06:30:17


They wanted freedom, but they didn't want it in this way. They did have an agreement on the table with the British, and they believed that that was sufficient and they said, okay. This rebellion happened. They took over the post office. It was brutal. You could see pictures of this. One of the pictures they used as the thumbnail. It was quite devastating.

00:06:30:24 - 00:06:52:28


The fighting between the Irish and the British, even for, you know, the short period is like a week or two. They captured thousands and quickly, I think the British made their fatal mistake, or most historians would agree. They lined up 16 of the leaders of the Irish rebellion and they shot them.

00:06:53:00 - 00:07:23:28


This led to outcry, fury, and it would only be a few years after World War One that they were able to have their first wins of freedom, where most of Ireland was basically allowed to have home rule and and rule by the people, by the people of Ireland. And it took until, I think, 1937, when they had complete Irish Republic, was formed completely independent.

00:07:24:00 - 00:07:46:06


But basically it was 1921 when they really 1822 and they really had. I think it's December 1921 when they really had the freedom. So that's some background I think you did have. There's a lot of little details. There's even some personal biography in this, and I'm not going to get into that before the reading. I might tell you one or two little things here and there after we read.

00:07:46:09 - 00:08:10:18


But you do need to know about Easter 1960. You need another rebellion. Just like if you had a poem about 911, like what's 911 September? Who cares? Right now there's something special about D-Day we need to know about D-Day. What's happening on this day. And that's what Easter 1916 is. You need to have some basic overview.

00:08:10:20 - 00:08:41:11


I'm going to read this poem now. I always recommend a I always recommend a full reading and then a stanza by stanza analysis. That means it takes a little bit longer, but I'll try to just read through it. You could pause. You could read it yourself. It's not very long. It's four stanzas and that's it. Four stanzas, by the way, for the fourth month, April.

00:08:41:14 - 00:08:59:05


Okay, so here we go. I'm going to go ahead and read this, and then we will. If you have any questions or anything like that, please put them in the comments. Easter 1916 by William Butler Yeats.

00:08:59:07 - 00:09:40:06


I have met them at close of day, coming with vivid faces from counter or dusk among gray 18th century houses. I have passed with a nod of the head or polite, meaningless words, or have lingered a while and said polite, meaningless words and thought before I had done of a mocking tale or a jibe to please a companion around the fire at the club, being certain that they and I but lived where Motley has worn all changed, changed utterly a terrible beauty is born.

00:09:40:08 - 00:10:09:29


That woman's days were spent in ignorance, goodwill, her nights and arguments 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.

00:10:09:29 - 00:10:51:04


His nature seemed so daring and sweet. His thought. This other man I had dreamed a drunken vainglorious lout. He had done most better 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, transformed utterly. A terrible beauty is born hearts with one purpose alone.

00:10:51:06 - 00:11:21:18


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 and the stream changes minute by minute. A horse hoof slides on the brim and a horse plushies within it.

00:11:21:20 - 00:11:59:01


The long legged more hens dive and hens two more cocks call minute by minute. They live the stones in the midst of all. Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart. Oh, 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 and limbs that had run wild.

00:11:59:04 - 00:12:43:20


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 Pierce now and in time to be wherever green is worn, are changed, changed utterly.

00:12:43:23 - 00:12:54:10


A terrible beauty is born.

00:12:54:12 - 00:13:19:24


Okay, so let's go through this stands up by stanza to get a better sense of what's going on in the play. It stands out in this poem. It sends a has its own kind of purpose behind it. There's there is something going on. Hopefully you got a sense of it a little bit, and there are multiple readings. You could do this, you could do this with full biographical knowledge.

00:13:19:24 - 00:13:45:12


You could do this without full biographical knowledge and still get a sense of something. Now, the first thing we want to see is that this is coming from the ordinary readers voice. So this is Yates talking, so we should think about that as relevant here. He says, I have met them at close of day, coming with vivid faces from counter or dusk among gray 18th century houses.

00:13:45:15 - 00:14:18:17


So he sees them on a regular basis, just trotting around. He lives in Dublin. They are in Dublin. They they mingle together and they have vivid faces, very vivacious, full of life, or there's something unique about them from counter or dusk among gray 18th century houses. The much of the architecture, especially in Dublin at this time, was these kinds of 18th century houses still, these are the kinds of shops that they worked in.

00:14:18:18 - 00:14:42:21


So he's just saying he saw them in the everyday life. He met them these rebellions rebels that we are talking about. By the way, this is why you need to do a full reading and then understand the poem. Not you would never understand that. What the hell is he talking about here? If you just read it like stanza and try to understand what that meant, you have to know the totality first.

00:14:42:24 - 00:15:05:02


Because who is them? Well, them is referring to the rebels of Easter 1916. The men that he mentions and the women he mentions by name, some of them in this poem, that's them. So again, poetry has to be re read. I say that all the time, but it's true. Poetry is not meant to be read. It's meant to be reread.

00:15:05:04 - 00:15:32:13


Okay, so I've Mathematical Day coming with whoever faces next. The next line I have passed with a nod of the head or polite, meaningless words, or have lingered a while and said polite, meaningless words and thought before I had done of a mocking tale or a gibe, a joke to please the companion around the fire at the club, being certain that they and I but lived where Motley is worn.

00:15:32:15 - 00:15:52:12


So think about that for a second. That section there. He he's these are the people he's talking about the rebels. He's seen them in the shops. And, you know, the way I think about this is you might see some person you think of as a little crazy. You know, the you could think about this, put this in any context, in any era you could think of.

00:15:52:12 - 00:16:22:28


This is the BLM people walking around, he might say, or like someone fighting for, you know, the rights of females to, you know, have freedom of their bodies. And you might they all go and then you tell a joke to your buddies in private at the club that they're not invited to, by the way, that tie or just, you know, at the restaurant with your friends or over a meme or something and you're kind of ridiculing them.

00:16:22:29 - 00:16:41:22


That's what that's what this is. I have passed with a lot of that. So in real life, you're, you know, you see the BLM people and you're like, oh, Allah. And, you know, you walk away and then you make a joke about them in private. That's what that means to please the companion around the fire at the club, being certain that they and I but lived where Motley has worn.

00:16:41:25 - 00:17:08:07


It's a reference to Joker's in the court right. And you're kind of that I think he thinks of himself at this point or that's part of the conflict is he's part of the more kingly aspect of Ireland. But then he says so again think about you know, you think about some political movement that you see. You see the members of this political movement, especially a radical political movement on the right or left middle.

00:17:08:07 - 00:17:38:09


Doesn't matter. Libertarians. Who cares? That's not important. Someone. Someone over there who's fighting for something major. But then he says, this line all changed, all change, all changed, changed utterly. A terrible beauty is born now. A terrible beauty is born. By the way, is one of those to be or not to be quotes. It's now ubiquitous in the culture.

00:17:38:09 - 00:18:01:09


It's quoted often it's sounds like a cliche. He coined it. This is where it comes from right here. Okay. So we have this set up of him walking through the streets of Dublin, living his life, seeing these rioters or this route. Not right. They're not rioting. They've done nothing except have political beliefs. He's obviously not a very political person.

00:18:01:12 - 00:18:28:20


He or at least in this poem, he doesn't care that much. They're just a joke. The butt of a joke in a sense. But he'll politely nod at them. Okay, whatever. Now he's going to get a little bit more specific. So he says That woman, right. Extensive things like that one right over there. They see her. That woman's days were spent in ignorant goodwill, her nights an argument and tell her voice grew shrill at a you know, a person like that.

00:18:28:20 - 00:19:06:25


Have you did you go to college and meet a feminist? Now, she is not in this regard. She's not a feminist, but I think you can use that that an out that parallel that someone who, you know, was arguing all the time for something in this case Irish, Irish is Ireland's freedom. What voice more sweet than hers. When young and beautiful she wrote to her here's like the you know, writing in for for battle essentially um a person get hairier means a person who engages in persistent attacks on others or incursions into their lands essentially.

00:19:06:27 - 00:19:33:16


So she's harrying people with her debates with her, you know, arguments She's political. So he's saying that woman's days were spent in ignorant goodwill, her nights in argument until her voice grew shrill and so on and so forth. HARRIS And then he moves on. So it's that woman and then that's this man. This man had kept a school and rode our winged horse.

00:19:33:18 - 00:19:57:16


Now, what do you think about that one? I'm going to tell you what it means, but I want you to think about Winged Horse. There's no such thing as a weakened horse. Where are winged horses found in the imagination or poetry? Right. So this man had kept a school, right? He had a school. He was the manager, the leader, the principal, the owner of a school.

00:19:57:18 - 00:20:24:13


And he rode our winged horse. He rode the imagination. He rode poetry, right? He was a writer. He was a poet. So this. So there's the woman who was the fighter for liberty in Ireland. There's this poet who had a school. He was an educator. This other his Halperin friend was coming into his force. I think the helper of the school was coming into this this powerful fame.

00:20:24:18 - 00:20:50:01


So he might have won fame in the end, so sensitive. His nature seemed fame of power, poetry so daring and sweet. His thought. So this is a poet, poet that Yeats respects, and he thinks he could have gained fame. Now, I think at this point Yeats was actually quite famous. So he's he's giving this guy a compliment. Right?

00:20:50:01 - 00:21:17:01


And this guy could have been something in this field, this other man. And now he's going to move on to another man. So, you know, there's a period here we're stopping that thought. This other man I had dreamed a drunken, vainglorious lout. Okay, So this other guy he doesn't like is a lout. He's a bad dude. He had done most bitter wrong to some who are near my heart and I number him in the song.

00:21:17:04 - 00:21:35:29


So even though he hates this guy that he's talking about here, right. He respects these other people obviously on some level, even a few things like, oh, her voice grew shrill. You know, she's like one of those feminists that you might make fun of or something. But he still has a respect for her. He has respect for the schoolteacher, the school owner.

00:21:35:29 - 00:22:07:13


He has respect for the poet. This guy, he doesn't have any respect for personal. He despises him. He had done most bit of wrong to somewhere 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, transformed utterly. A terrible beauty is born.

00:22:07:15 - 00:22:37:27


Now remember the context this is written. This is why I said this is so important to know this. This is the context of 16 leaders of the Easter rebellion being lined up against a wall and shot. So who do you think these people are? This is the context of hundreds of people dying, including civilians, thousands being round that run it up, brought back within the context of trying to win freedom for the Irish.

00:22:37:29 - 00:23:19:14


Even the man he hates who was caught up in all this, who was a leader in all of this, has been changed in his turn, transformed utterly. The schoolteacher, the shrill lady who fought for liberty when with arguments transformed utterly how into a terrible beauty, an oxymoron, terrible beauty is born hearts with one purpose alone through summer and winter seem enchanted to a stone to trouble the living stream.

00:23:19:17 - 00:23:40:03


Okay, now we're moving into something very different. You should notice a shift here. So we had this at the beginning. We have this. I have met these people here Are these people The woman, The man that I. You know, the poet, the. The fighter for liberty, the the lout, the drunken lout guy. And now we're in this weird okay, hearts.

00:23:40:03 - 00:24:05:29


So now we're like a symbolic land. He's moving us into something unique for this poem. Hearts with one purpose alone through summer and winter seem enchanted to a stone to troubled the living stream. Okay, What does that mean? Heart. So these are people with one purpose through time, summer and winter, they're chanted to a stone. And. But they're troubling the living streams.

00:24:05:29 - 00:24:29:09


So stream. You know, maybe you could think of this as, you know, a philosophy. You can't step into the same river twice. There's something about change, constancy, You know, Stone is unchangeable, unmoving. There's nothing. It's always the same. It's a stone, right? So maybe their hearts with one purpose associated with the stone. We will get that later. But there's a living stream, so the stream is always moving.

00:24:29:09 - 00:25:09:19


Maybe that's history time, civilization. Humans are always moving in this purpose. But this stone, this enchanted to a stone heart, is troubling. 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. Well, we have some interesting nature references throughout this whole thing. So horses coming with their rider, the birds that rains, it just look in the sky of sea birds right in front of my window here going from cloud to tumbling cloud minute by.

00:25:09:21 - 00:25:39:15


They are changing all the time. Life is changed. The living stream changes, Everything is changing all the time. But a shadow of cloud on the stream changes minute by minute. A horse hoof slides on the brim and a horse splashes within it. So here we have some imagery of the horse splattering. You know, I have Paul Revere back here, you know, and what he did right with Paul Revere's ride warning the countryside of the Americans that the the redcoats are coming.

00:25:39:15 - 00:26:10:19


The redcoats are coming. And that's, you know, indicating a kind of change, a dramatic trouble, the long legged. MOOREHEAD Oops, the long legged more hands dive and hands to more cocks call minute by minute. They live the stones in the midst of all. So you know, maybe another way of thinking about this now that I might actually be changing my view on this one stands a little bit is he's giving all these you know, we have to put all these things together.

00:26:10:19 - 00:26:39:05


So he's giving an analogy of the changing and the consistent, but also the consistency, right. Of all these different images and all these different nature symbols that are, you know, meaning the nature of the horse and the birds and the the more cocks and the hands and they live minute by minute, but the stone sit amidst them all and kind of, you know, makes them go around or troubles the stream.

00:26:39:08 - 00:26:55:18


It's an interesting. So it's, you know, it's a picture like a little stream. Maybe there's one picture right now. Picture a little stream. Not a not a big one. And there's like a stone in the middle of it. Well, the stream goes around it and it kind of the stone is disturbing it, but it's unmoving. It's unchanging. So where's that?

00:26:55:18 - 00:27:25:29


Where's this leading? It's pretty abstract, I think. And I think it could be interpreted a variety of ways. So here's the next stanza Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart. Ooh, I personally, I, I find that very intriguing. What does he mean by that? Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart hearts with one purpose alone through summer and winter seem enchanted to a stone to trouble the living stream.

00:27:26:02 - 00:27:48:28


So there's. He's obviously making a relationship, an association of the stone to the end. The sacrifice. So your heart is not open. You're not thinking about other things. You're not thinking about life and love and joy and achieving things. As a poet, you're not thinking about How can I make this school better? How can I write a new verse?

00:27:49:00 - 00:28:16:21


How can I become a better husband? The drunken lout who hurt somebody you know, who hurt somebody? Or how can I become a better person? All of that stripped away by sack. By too long, a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart. And then he asks the question, Oh, the you know, the lament here, almost like, oh, when may yet suffice.

00:28:16:24 - 00:28:50:11


How much sacrifice is enough? Will it ever end? Will the sacrifice ever end? Will the death ever end? 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. So I think he's saying that he cannot as a poet, cannot answer that question.

00:28:50:11 - 00:29:08:14


He doesn't think anybody on earth can answer that question. And I think somebody on earth can answer that question. I don't this is where philosophically, I don't fully agree with him, of course, But that's okay. He's a poet, although he was somewhat philosophical. But we don't have to agree with some of the philosophy to appreciate their grand art.

00:29:08:17 - 00:29:34:04


He is saying he believes it's heaven's part to make that decision of when will it suffice. The sacrifice. Our part on earth is simply to murmur the name upon name, to give name, and to keep in the minds of the people the names of these important figures. Paul Revere, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin for me. Right. And there's that's.

00:29:34:04 - 00:29:53:28


That's my job. I need you to know who Paul Revere was, why he was important. That's why he was one of the most important founding fathers, even though people just think of him as some, you know, side event or something, some minor messenger that he was much more important than that. And this is I think this is kind of what Yates is saying here.

00:29:54:00 - 00:30:18:07


He's saying that it's up to me and to all of us to gather to remember these people and to give them names so we don't forget who were the heroes of 911, who were the heroes of D-Day? Who are the heroes of these events that are standing, that were fading away over time and the constancy of change as the stream moves forward and things.

00:30:18:07 - 00:30:47:07


You know, for instance, we know now looking back in 2023 that Ireland did gained its independence. But have have they have the Irish, have we the world forgotten the names of the men and the women who made that possible? Well, like mothers name their child the you know when sleep at last us come on limbs that had run wild we need to do that But then he has another question what is it but nightfall.

00:30:47:10 - 00:31:10:18


Yes is it just night falls are just going to sleep. But no, no, not night, but death. He wants to be clear. This is not just some sleep, some peaceful sleep. They're going to heaven. You know, this kind of idea. Remember, this poem is called Easter 1916. So we haven't gone into some of the biblical references here. But I think hopefully you can get the you can catch the resurrection.

00:31:10:21 - 00:31:36:11


He say, no, no, not not that this is death finality. Was it needless death, Death. After all, for England may keep faith for all that is done in sad for England, may keep faith for all. But I think that's something that you cannot understand without knowing some of the background of the story. I think you might be able to get some like if you just read this naked.

00:31:36:14 - 00:32:07:14


In other words, complete ignorance of Easter 1916 of any kind of knowledge of the Irish of Ireland's history. You might get something out of that, but I doubt it. And this is something that I think is unique as an art form to literature that you often do need some basic understanding of the context because this was written in a context even though he is searching for the universal, I believe this is still happening in a circumstantial event.

00:32:07:16 - 00:32:28:15


So England keeping faith, remember, has to do with the compact that they had made the promise that the British had basically made, that England had basically made to the Irish, saying, hey, we'll take care of you, will get you home rule, but we got to fight this war first, so you got to help us out. And he said, well, maybe they would have done that.

00:32:28:15 - 00:32:54:06


We don't know. We will never know if they would have cut faith because the Easter rebellion happened. And that's what led. And then to the killing of the 16 leaders, which was an outrage to the Irish and that led to a lot of the the massive change in this became like a rallying cry for the Irish. And they used it for massive political change.

00:32:54:08 - 00:33:21:24


But maybe it would have happened anyway. We know that this is continuing the poem. We know their dream, the dream of the rebellions. We're about rebels. We know their dream enough to know they dreamed and our debt. But what if excess of love bewildered them till they died? What if excess of love bewilder them? What do you think, Bill?

00:33:21:26 - 00:33:56:17


Excessive love for what? Their country. Freedom. Independence. What if that love had taken over that singular purpose had been so all consuming that it bewildered them until they died? They didn't even think, Well, maybe England will keep fit. And it seems that Yates is a little confused here. He's not sure how to feel about this because he thinks that England may have cut faith, I think is part of what's happening here.

00:33:56:19 - 00:34:19:01


So he asked that question, kind of just leaves it there and he says, you know what? I write it out in verse. In a verse. Now, these are the specific names he wants people to remember. These are some of the leaders. These are the men that are and women that are mentioned above Macdonagh Macdonagh and McBryde and Connolly and Pierce are Pearse because he does verse person.

00:34:19:01 - 00:34:44:12


I'm not sure that's probably just the best he could do. It looks like Pierce to me. So those are those are the four, those are four of the 16 that he's talking about, specifically above the schoolteacher, the the shrill woman, the the vainglorious lout and the schoolteachers and the poet in the front. And I don't remember which one is which off the top of my head.

00:34:44:12 - 00:35:18:16


I do know them. I read it earlier, but I forgot which one is which. So you'll have to look that up now and in time to be wherever green is worn or changed. Changed utterly. A terrible beauty has born so I think the final thing, there's a lot going on here. I think you could spend a lot of time looking through the words experience again, appreciating what's being said here.

00:35:18:19 - 00:35:47:05


It's a I think it's a beautiful, haunting poem that really for me sticks with me. He spent a lot of time thinking about this poem and trying to make it as powerful as he could. And, you know, I think for me, the imagery is great, the rhythm is great. There's all that ceremony. Pull this up. There's a really interesting thing, he says about rhythm.

00:35:47:07 - 00:36:16:07


So poetry is about sound and sense. It's about making sense. And this poem has an interesting rhythm that people have tried to classify, but I find it very challenging because it shifts around a little bit. But this is what and one of the just historical things about Yeats is Yates was born at the latter out of the Victorian era and the romanticism was still kind of there.

00:36:16:10 - 00:36:52:01


And he's living through the process of going into modernism, where there's going to be where everything is thrown up in the air in a sense. And so with Yeats, I think you see a really interesting relationship of this shift happening within him where he's trying to he has a lot of the traditional perspectives, the romanticism is there. He really has this high romanticism, and for him it's the fairytales, the mythology of the past that is high in his mind and these these grand ideals.

00:36:52:03 - 00:37:24:14


But there's there's also this kind of like I'm none of it matters. There's no meaning. You know, there's that conflict. He's so Yates is a very study for that conflict of within a human who's experiencing this momentous cultural worldwide shift incentive. And that is going from the old romanticism, grandeur, the wonder of life in the world at Universal City into this meaningless modernist mess.

00:37:24:16 - 00:38:06:22


And it's an interesting and I think perspective on a, you know, person to look at for that purpose. So this is what he said about rhythm. And I think it's very interesting to say the least. He said the purpose of rhythm, it has always seemed to me, is to prolong the moment of contemplation, the moment when we are both asleep and awake, which is the one moment of creation by hushing us with an alluring monotony while it holds us waking by variety to keep us in that state of perhaps real trance, and which the mind liberated from the pressure of the will is unfolded in symbols.

00:38:06:24 - 00:38:33:17


Now this is all over the place. I think. But one of the things he's saying, and this is one of the powers of poetry, one is that poetry, like all art is, only has one purpose. And this is something that Ayn Rand and many others have mentioned, and it's contemplation for contemplations sake. He's arguing here that rhythm and the way he plays with rhythm in particular is there to prolong the contemplation.

00:38:33:17 - 00:39:04:02


And he does this through a series of monotonous. So it should drown out a little bit. It should have that that feeling of meditation where you go, you know, there's a kind of similarity between the sounds he's going for, but then there's the kind of jarring awake. There's these questions he puts in there. There are these challenging phrases that you have to say, There's something that, whoa, wakes you up and kind of like it kind of gets it pokes at you a little bit.

00:39:04:02 - 00:39:28:22


And his poetry, I think, does in fact do. And so I think there's some really important things to be studying with. Yeah, he's definitely worthwhile this. I was reminded of and I'll wrap up here, you know, I was reminded of Yeats just recently by a great local philosopher in Austin. This is one of the great things about living in Austin.

00:39:28:25 - 00:39:51:16


And, you know, I had a conversation and we were just kind of having lunch. And this philosopher was telling me about she was reading Yeats. I was like, Oh yeah, yeah, it's Easter 1916. I had read this a while ago, and then we went later than I think two days later or whatever, and we saw a play called Master and Harold Master Harold in The Boys by Austin Shakespeare.

00:39:51:23 - 00:40:24:08


It was put on by Austin Shakespeare. It's a famous play by some I don't know if it's as famous as maybe it should be, but you know, it was done by James Earl Jones on Broadway years ago. There's a little movie about it by Athol Fugard and it's about apartheid in South Africa in the 1950s. It takes place in a shop between a white, young white boy, a 17 year old boy, and his two the the not slaves, the two working men, you know, African black working men for his mother, mother at their shop.

00:40:24:10 - 00:40:43:19


And they're dynamic. It's very, very fascinating and wonderful tale. And they talk a bit about politics and the matter of where is politics? Why is that important? Why isn't it, you know, and where how are we ever going to have a better world and things like that? And it's a really, really, really good, you know, story. I really recommend checking it out.

00:40:43:21 - 00:41:10:20


But, you know, like, I was reminded all this stuff and the so much that's in this poem by Yeats of heroism and bravery, you know, personal fulfillment versus public sacrifice. Right. He talks about in the poem the poet who might have been famous. Was it worth it, right? Like to have independence or because he's dead now, he doesn't get to experience that.

00:41:10:23 - 00:41:31:17


I shared this poem with my good friend Luke Travers and, you know, told him. It reminded me of Andor. And there's a great speech in there about the sacrifice of rebellion that you will you will be fighting, you know, rebellion for some grant against the Grand Republic. You're going to be fighting and you're not going to see the success.

00:41:31:19 - 00:41:54:17


And this man who's doing this fighting, who's part of this he's turned his own heart to stone. I don't want to give it away. You have to go watch that show. It's a great show. And he's turned his heart to stone. He makes chess, moves with human lives because he has a grand purpose of achieving independence. And so he just sacrifices somebody because that's what you got to do.

00:41:54:19 - 00:42:18:19


That's rebellion, that's fighting, that's death. But is that what's necessary? When does it end? Where is this worth? What is enough? Enough That that's a question. I think even if you're fully committed to the cause, I think that's a legitimate question to ask. When is enough enough? How much death is enough? How much giving up of one person's life, many people's lives is enough.

00:42:18:21 - 00:42:46:06


And that's what this poem explores, that what makes this poem so fundamentally, so powerful as that Yeats doesn't fully know, but he's exploring these questions in his soul. He's exploring them for himself. You know, as he says, we make out of the quarrel with others rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry. And that's what he's struggling with, is the quarrel with himself.

00:42:46:06 - 00:43:07:12


How does he this man who used to make fun of these rebellions, but now he's he's admiring them. They're so grand and epic and they have led are they will lead to the independence of Ireland because of what they did, despite whether we'll never know if England will have kept faith. But we do know what we do know is that this has occurred.

00:43:07:14 - 00:43:41:01


This rebellion has occurred. These men and women sacrificed their lives and we will have independence because of it that we do know. And so they've for that they are to be admired because they have led to Ireland's independence. Okay, That is Easter 1916. I think there's still a lot to be said about it. I hope you will print this up, read it occasionally, especially when you see momentous events happening out in your culture, wherever you are in the world.

00:43:41:03 - 00:43:56:07


And think about it. Think about the questions the asks and what he's experiencing. Thank you so much and I'll see you next time.



PayPal ButtonPayPal Button
bottom of page