Easter 1916

What sort of theatrical and dramatic metaphors and language are at work in the poem and to what end?                                           The third stanza of ‘Easter 1916’ is very metaphorical, discussing a stone in a stream.  In the first line, the speaker states, “Hearts with one purpose alone/Through summer and winter seem/Enchanted to a stone/To trouble the living stream.” The stone is clearly a symbol, and therefore this stanza can be interpreted in an infinite number of ways.  One way in which it can be interpreted is that one’s heart only has one purpose, whether it is to beat in order for an organism to live, or to love another forever, then it will turn to stone, and not be able to function in any other way.  This will cause problems in “the living stream,” as something which can only have one function seems more of a burden than a joy or gift.  Life will continue to happen while this mono-functioning heart is “in the midst of it all.”  The Irish rebels’ sole purpose, in their own eyes, was to rebel against the British government. Another way of interpreting it is that a stone that is thrown into a stream displaces water and disrupts the natural order of things; the revolutionaries do the same thing. 

In what different ways can the phrase ‘terrible beauty’ be understood?                                                                                                   The tone is changed in the last two lines of ‘Easter 1916’. “Terrible beauty” is an oxymoron, which is used to describe the dual effect of the Easter Rising. It is terrible, because of all the needless deaths that occurred during this uprising. It is beautiful, because it opened the eyes of Ireland, which allowed for the creation of the Irish Free State. These last two lines function as a way of reminding the reader of the larger issue facing Ireland. It is repeated in the other stanzas as a way of linking them together; even though each stanza speaks in a different way about the Easter Rising, in Ireland, they are connected with this phrase.

How does the structure add to the development of the meaning?                                                                                                            In ‘Easter 1916’ the date of the Easter Rising can be seen in the structure of the poem. There are 16 lines (for 1916) in the first and third stanzas, 24 lines (for April 24, the date the Rising began) in the second and fourth stanzas, and four stanzas in total (which refers to April, the fourth month of the year).


One thought on “Easter 1916

  1. Pingback: Triumph and tragedy | Books not computers

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