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W.B. Yeats Easter 1916 and other poems shortlisted for RTÉ's Poem For Ireland - vote now!


16-02-2015 18:30

In the words of Seamus Heaney, great poetry can ‘catch the heart off guard and blow it open’. RTÉ’s Poem For Ireland campaign is about celebrating the wonderful canon of Irish poetry of the past 100 years and what it says about us as a people. Which one is your best-loved?

Ten shortlisted poems are featured on A Poem For Ireland website and today we remind W.B.Yeats’ classic, Easter 1916, now published in Pocket Irish Poetry Book.

Get involved and vote for your favourite poem, and follow A Poem For Ireland campaign on Twitter (@RTEPoetry) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/RTEAPoemForIreland)!

Easter 1916

W.B.Yeats

I have met them at close of day

Coming with vivid faces

From counter or desk among grey

Eighteenth-century houses.

I have passed with a nod of the head

Or polite meaningless words,

Or have lingered awhile and said

Polite meaningless words,

And thought before I had done

Of a mocking tale or a gibe

To please a companion

Around the fire at the club,

Being certain that they and I

But lived where motley is worn:

All changed, changed utterly:

A terrible beauty is born.


That woman’s days were spent

In ignorant good-will,

Her nights in argument

Until her voice grew shrill.

What voice more sweet than hers

When, young and beautiful,

She rode to harriers?

This man had kept a school

And rode our wingèd horse;

This other his helper and friend

Was coming into his force;

He might have won fame in the end,

So sensitive his nature seemed,

So daring and sweet his thought.

This other man I had dreamed

A drunken, vainglorious lout.

He had done most bitter wrong

To some who are near my heart,

Yet I number him in the song;

He, too, has resigned his part

In the casual comedy;

He, too, has been changed in his turn,

Transformed utterly:

A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone

Through summer and winter seem

Enchanted to a stone

To trouble the living stream.

The horse that comes from the road,

The rider, the birds that range

From cloud to tumbling cloud,

Minute by minute they change;

A shadow of cloud on the stream

Changes minute by minute;

A horse-hoof slides on the brim,

And a horse plashes within it;

The long-legged moor-hens dive,

And hens to moor-cocks call;

Minute by minute they live;

The stone’s in the midst of all.

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.

25 September 1916

This and other 85 much-loved poems are featured in Pocket Irish Poetry Book compiled by Tony Potter and published in February 2015 by Gill Books. This beautifully illustrated collection contains the greatest poems from the greatest Irish poets, including Jonathan Swift, Thomas Moore, Oscar Wilde, WB Yeats, James Joyce, Patrick Kavanagh and Seamus Heaney. ORDER NOW!



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