To Yeats, his ideas of the Irish politics of his time were never far from his modernist poems. He makes the political world seem a place of passion and contradictions, like art, requiring of us not to understand history in moral terms, such as “good and bad” but, rather, in seemingly emotionally artistic terms, like “pity” or “terror. ” For example, in the poem, “Easter 1916,” Yeats fixes on the horror and captivation of the considerably devastating event of the Irish uprising.
In the first stanza, the line “Being certain that they and I/ But lived were motley is worn,” signifies and emphasizes Yeats strong idea of “Irish-ness”. It is as if these men and women that he speaks of, such as Pearse and MacBride, share essentially nothing with him, nothing with each other really, except for their Irishness – the “motley” that they wore and their passion for Irish Independence – their “hearts with one purpose alone”.
He recognizes and glorifies their “number in the song,” their part in the war and this brings in a technique in which Yeats quite often used which was that of encompassing classical allusions within his poetry. For example, the line, “This man had kept a school/and rode our winged horse” invites the image of Pearse, the man, riding Pegasus, a mythical beast or, it transforms Pearse into an ancient Irish hero, Cuchulain. By using classical allusion, Yeats is effectively ascending his characters into an almost intangible and iconic state.
They are more than human and thus glorified, which is then ultimately sculpting Irish politics into an almost mythical state. In addition, the paradoxical line, “a terrible beauty is born,” returns in the poem like an impersonal chorus, suggesting an almost strangely impersonal event. The line, “All changed, changed utterly/ a terrible beauty is born” is a lyrically artistic buildup of stress that becomes almost chime- like in the poem, calling and announcing the coming of the birth of a new and terrible age.
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