Monday, March 28, 2016

Yeats on the Irish Rising, Easter 1916. "A Terrible Beauty Is Born."

Easter Monday of 1916 is when Ireland rose up (or more accurately, some dedicated people in Ireland rose up) and began the process of breaking away from England. The great poet William Butler Yeats wrote this poem, proclaiming the birth of "a terrible beauty." Yeats had some ambivalence about the people involved and what had happened. Here is the final part of that great poem:

Easter 1916 (final section)

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.

General Post Office (GPO), Dublin, April 1916

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