Another milestone of the 1916 Easter Rising centennial arrives 25 September. That’s the date W. B. Yeats jotted at the bottom of his draft notes for the poem “Easter, 1916.”
In May 1916, as 15 Irish rebels faced British firing squads, Yeats hinted at the poem’s most famous line in a letter to his Abbey Theatre co-founder Lady Gregory: “I am trying to write a poem on the men executed—’terrible beauty has been born’.”
The poem was not published until 23 October, 1920, when it appeared in the New Statesman, launched in 1913 to give voice to the unrest of the period. In 1921, “Easter, 1916” was included in Yeats’ Michael Robartes and the Dancer.
The completion date of “Easter, 1916” is unremarked in the official centennial programs of the Irish government and the National Library of Ireland. It is noted on the 1916 timeline of the Decade of Centenaries website.
Read the full poem.