Trace Yeats’ changing attitude to contemporary Irish revolutionaries

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The Lake Isle of Innisfree is a notable literary work by William Butler Yeats. A complete discussion of this literary work is given, which will help you enhance your literary skills and prepare for the exam. Read the main text, key info, Summary, Themes, Characters, Literary Devices, Quotations, Notes, to various questions of The Lake Isle of Innisfree.


Trace Yeats’ changing attitude to contemporary Irish revolutionaries.

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), the well-known Irish poet, lived during a turbulent period in Irish history, including the struggle for independence and the formation of the Irish Free State. Throughout his life, Yeats’ attitude towards contemporary Irish revolutionaries evolved significantly. Here is an overview of his changing perspective.

Early Sympathies and Idealism: In his early years, Yeats held romantic and idealistic views about Irish nationalism and its revolutionaries. He saw them as heroic figures fighting for a just cause against British rule. His poetry and writings during this period often celebrated Irish history, folklore, and mythology, drawing inspiration from the country’s rich cultural heritage.

Disillusionment and Scepticism: As the years passed, Yeats became disappointed with some revolutionary groups’ violent and divisive tactics, particularly during the Easter Rising 1916. The rebellion led to significant loss of life and destruction in Dublin, and Yeats was deeply affected by the aftermath. He started questioning whether using force and armed struggle would lead to the desired outcome of Irish independence and unity.

“Easter, 1916”: Yeats’ attitude shift is best described in his poem “Easter, 1916,” which he wrote shortly after the Easter Rising. In this poem, he contemplates the events and the individuals involved, including some of his close friends who were revolutionaries. He said,

I write it out in a verse—
MacDonagh and MacBride   
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,

He now sees them as courageous martyrs willing to sacrifice for their cause. The poem reveals his complex feelings towards the revolutionaries and the changing political landscape of Ireland.

Involvement with the Irish Free State: Following Ireland’s partial independence and the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922, Yeats was established as a Senator representing the National University of Ireland. While he advocated the establishment of the new state, he remained critical of certain political developments and divisions within the country.

Yeats’ attitude towards contemporary Irish revolutionaries moved from idealism and sympathy to a more nuanced and skeptical view. His deep thoughts on the Easter Rising and its aftermath led him to focus on cultural nationalism to unite Ireland and shape its national identity.