A Terrible Beauty: Poetry of 1916 by Mairead Ashe FitzGerald

By Mairead Ashe FitzGerald

Ireland's Easter 1916 emerging was once led by way of a mixture of infantrymen and exchange unions but in addition visionaries and writers. This selection of poems includes the goals and visions of freedom and nationhood for eire through those artists, concentrating on prior to, in the course of, and after the 1916 emerging. Poets comprise: Padraic Pearse, W.B. Yeats, Joseph Mary Plunkett, James Stephens, Eva Gore-Booth, George Russell, Padraic Colum, Sean O'Casey, Dora Sigerson Shorter, Thomas Ashe, Katharine Tynan, and plenty of extra.

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His ideas and his personality helped to shape and stimulate the cultural life of Ireland in the decades around the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Born a Presbyterian in Lurgan, County Armagh, he grew up in Dublin and from his youth he was committed to independence for Ireland. It was while attending the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art that he met WB Yeats, who became a lifelong friend. In order to earn a living, Æ spent a decade working as a cashier in Pim’s, a department store in South Great George’s Street, but he was better known as a large-minded and gentle intellectual at the centre of the Irish literary revival in Dublin.

He became a member of the General Council and acted as director of training. He played a central role in planning for an insurrection, and Easter Monday 1916 saw him as commandant of a garrison in Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, an enormous building in central Dublin. Máire Nic Shiubhlaigh, a great patriot, a member of Cumann na mBan and a renowned actress in the Abbey Theatre, was in Jacob’s Factory for the entire week of the Rising. She left a first-hand description of those events in her fine book, The Splendid Years, where she remembers MacDonagh’s optimism and enthusiasm, giving encouragement to his garrison during the long hours and days of Easter Week.

Together, MacDonagh and Pearse were a perfect team with shared interests: both were literary men and both were charismatic teachers with a love of poetry, theatre and the Irish language. MacDonagh was already well known in literary circles by the time he came to St Enda’s. His play When the Dawn is Come (with its theme of Irish insurrection) was accepted by WB Yeats and Lady Gregory and staged in the Abbey Theatre in 1907. He had published three books of poetry by 1906. As early as 1903 34 he had sent some of his poems to WB Yeats, who responded with advice and encouragement.

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