Easter 1916

The Easter Rising took place a hundred years ago.  It was an idiotic, doomed adventure that caused hundreds of deaths and maybe led, years later, to Irish independence:

Almost 500 people were killed in the Easter Rising. About 54% were civilians, 30% were British military and police, and 16% were Irish rebels. More than 2,600 were wounded. Most of the civilians were killed as a result of the British using artillery and heavy machine guns, or mistaking civilians for rebels. The shelling and the fires it caused left parts of inner city Dublin in ruins.

And, of course, it led to a great poem.  If you’re a terrorist (or, maybe, a freedom fighter), you should hope that you have William Butler Yeats around to make you immortal, to turn your dreams into myth. Here’s the final stanza of “Easter 1916”:

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.

Here’s the proclamation of an Irish republic, signed by some of those whom excess of love bewildered:

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