Political Poems: 'Easter 1916' by W.B. Yeats

Seamus Perry and Mark Ford

Yeats’s great poem about the uprising of Irish republicans against British rule on 24 April 1916 marked a turning point in Ireland’s history and in Yeats's career. Through four stanzas Yeats enacts the transfiguration of the movement’s leaders – executed by the British shortly after the event – from ‘motley’ acquaintances to heroic martyrs, and interrogates his own attitude to nationalist violence. Mark and Seamus discuss Yeats’s reflections on the value of political commitment, his embrace of the role of national bard and the origin of the poem’s most famous line.

Sign up to the Close Readings subscription to listen ad free and to all our series in full:

Directly in Apple Podcasts

In other podcast apps

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences