WB Yeats’ Easter 1916


  • In Easter 1916, Dublin, there was a small rebellion against the British Army. The rebels fortified buildings, but were easily outnumbered and the British Army had cannons, machine guns etc.
  • The rebels surrendered after 5 days and were executed by firing squad.
  • Although locals Dubliners offered very little support or sympathy during the uprising, this violence and tragedy of this rebellion turned public opinion.

References (all died/executed in 1916):

  • Thomas MacDonagh, one of the leaders in the rebellion
  • Major John MacBride, second in command in the rebellion, had married and separated with Yeats’ long-time unrequited love, Maude Gonne
  • Connolly – James Connolly, founded the Irish Socialists Republican Party
  • Pearse – Patrick Pearse, leader of rebellion


How does this poem reflect Yeats’ political views?

How does this poem demonstrate the power of poetry to immortalise?

What is the “change” that Yeats is referring to?


  • What does “at close of day” symbolise?
  • What impression do you get of Yeats’ relationship with the local Dubliners and rebels from the first stanza?
  • The oxymoron “A terrible beauty is born” is repeated at the end of every stanza. What  is both terrible and beautiful?
  • How is our attention drawn to the last lines of the first stanza? Consider punctuation and tense.
  • The second stanza describes three people. Who are they? How are they described, in order to emphasise their loss?
  • The third stanza uses an extended metaphor. What does the stone represent? What does the stone metaphor connote?
  • How does Yeats’ convey the liveliness of the horse, rider, birds etc in comparison to the stone?
  • The lines “Minute by minute they change” are varied three times in the third stanza. In the last variation, what does change equate to?
  • The fourth stanza is largely comprised of a series of questions. What is Yeats’ asking?
  • The lines starting “As a mother names her child…” are a simile. What is the comparison made?
  • Yeats’ suggests that Easter 1916 and the tragedy and passion of the Irish rebels will be remembered “Now and in time to be”. How does poetry immortalise their efforts?
  • What does “Wherever green is worn” refer to?

Relation to other poems:


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