2016 marks the centenary of the Easter Rising in Ireland, when a small band of republicans’ brief insurrection over Easter Week 1916 resulted in their declaration of independence from Great Britain to form the Irish Republic (Poblacht na hÉireann). Quickly and violently squashed by the British, the Easter Rising became a defining moment for the complex landscape of Irish culture, politics, and history in the twentieth century.
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.
– William Butler Yeats, “Easter, 1916”
Between May and September 1916, William Butler Yeats wrote what would become “Easter, 1916,” a poem that was not the ringing endorsement of republicanism many had hoped it would be (though it was interpreted as such). Despite his prominent role in the Gaelic Revival and establishment of the Abbey Theatre in the earlier part of the century, Yeats became increasingly disillusioned with radicalism. Irish historian and Yeats biographer R.F. Foster notes that “Easter, 1916” instead “emphasized not only the bewildered and delusional state of the rebels, but it move[d] on to a plea for the flashing, changing joy of life rather than the harsh stone of fanatical opinion fixed in the effluvial stream.”
“A terrible beauty is born”: The Easter Rising at 100 will be on view from February 9-June 12, 2016, in the Special Collections main gallery (Morris Library 2nd floor).
An online version of the exhibition is available at: http://exhibits.lib.udel.edu/exhibits/show/easter1916