Deciding on a poem to critically analyze came easy for me this week as I love the work of W.B Yeats as I am from a predominantly Irish family. I chose to focus this post on an article by Margot Backus entitled, “More Useful Washed and Dead: James Connolly, W.B. Yeats, and the Sexual Politics of ‘Easter, 1916′ “. Backus’s central argument asserts that the writing of Yeats tied the leader of the Easter Uprising, James Connolly, to conservative nationalism. She feels that Yeats’s “condensed construction” of the Easter Uprising proved to be negative in that Yeats forever tied nationalism to socialism.
After researching the political climate of Ireland at the time, I tend to feel that Backus’s argument lacks merit. The beauty and grief within this poem are not of a man trying to “re-stabilize” nationalism, but rather one who feels pure empathy for his fellow countrymen. Yeats’s writes, “He had done most bitter wrong/ To some who are near my heart, / Yet I number him in the song”, showing his forgiving nature and sympathy for a man whom he disliked in life, but could not bear to shun in death. I also believe the naming of the men martyred in the uprising in the last stanza of the poem does not show Yeats’ desire to tie these men to nationalism, but rather as a way to memorialize them forever. Although Yeats was in a fact a nationalist himself, he never wanted violence. Yeats I believe wrote “Easter, 1916″ because the uprising stirred the humanity within him, not the nationalist.
Article Citation: Backus, Margot G. “‘ M O R E U S E F U L W A S H E D A N D D E A D ’ : J A M E S C O N N O L LY, W. B . Y E A T S , A N D T H E S E X U A L P O L I T I C S O F ‘ E A S T E R , 1 9 1 6 ’.” Interventions 10.1 (2008): 67-85. MLA Database. Web.