I have never been a fan of Yeats. I am still not a fan of Yeats, actually. I always found his poetry to be either extraordinarily obvious or completely above my head, looking at “The second Coming” here. With that being said, “Easter, 1916” falls in the camp of the former. I like that. I do not like poetry very much, but I love this poem. I love this poem because I get it. The imagery is plain and simple, but the meaning is what really makes my day. Sometimes revolution must occur, but it always seems to be framed as a good thing without taking any of the very real sacrifices into account. I like that Yeats questions the need for lives to be lost. I love that he asks if those who have given their lives had died for nothing. They did not, and I am a little ambivalent about the idea that England would honor their word, as if they had ever done it before. But I admire that he did not like bloodshed and mourned the deaths of the people who fought in the Easter Rising.
For me this week was a deep meditation on war, sacrifice and nature. These are all themes in Yeats’ poetry, and while I can’t appreciate it as fully as someone who enjoys it, I do appreciate the things it makes me think about. After Ireland gained its independence, it was thrown into civil war. Despite its violent past, Ireland is still naturally beautiful. I appreciate Yeats for celebrating the beauty of Ireland, while leaning into his lamentations of war and bloodshed. Yeats observes that “a terrible beauty [was] born” in “Easter, 1916”. But even while he is lamenting the loss of life he is reflecting on the beauty of Ireland and her people. I find it funny that I have such an affinity for this poem out of all the poems that we read this week. I read the other poems, but none of them clicked for me like this one did. I suppose that means I am still not a fan of Yeats, but he did write something that I enjoy.