Last Updated on June 24, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 450
The speaker of the poem, typically understood to be Yeats himself, writes about his everyday activities at the beginning of the poem. He nods to people as he passes them, and he also tells a funny or satirical story at the pub. Later, he muses about the people who have died while taking part in the Easter Rising of 1916.
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The Argumentative Woman
Yeats mentions a woman who is argumentative and ignorant. However, when she sacrificed herself in the Easter Rising, she was transformed into someone beautiful.
The Sensitive Man
Yeats also writes about a sensitive man who is the friend of a man who runs a school. This sensitive man had something great about him, Yeats believes, and he was sweet yet daring. Yeats believes that if this man had not died, the man would have likely gone far in his life.
The Drunken Lout
The poet also writes about a drunken man who is arrogant. Yeats dislikes this man, as the man wronged some of the people Yeats is close to. However, this man, Yeats believes, has also been redeemed through his sacrifice for Ireland's freedom.
Yeats refers at the end of the poem to figures who fought in the Easter Rising. One was Thomas MacDonagh, an Irish playwright who sought to bring avant-garde productions to Ireland. During the wave of militant nationalism that swept Ireland during World War I, he became part of the Irish Volunteers and was sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood. He defended a garrison during the Easter Rising and was later sentenced to death by the British. During his execution, he told the firing squad that he did not hold their actions against them, as they were just doing their job, and he offered them a cigarette.
Yeats also references John MacBride. Born in Ireland, MacBride went to South Africa and fought against the British in the Boer War. He later married Maud Gonne, an Anglo-Irish revolutionary who was friends with Yeats, and they returned to Ireland together. He claimed that he was not a member of the Irish Volunteers, but he joined them on the day of the uprising. He was also executed for his role in the Easter Rising.
James Connolly was a socialist and trade union leader who became a military leader during the uprising. He was the most effective leader of the uprising. Wounded in the uprising, he was also executed by the British.
Patrick Pearse was the commander of the Irish rebels during the Easter Rising. A poet and teacher, he believed in publishing works in the Irish language as a means of resisting British rule. He was also executed by the British following the Easter Rising.