W. B. Yeats: A Life: Volume I, The Apprentice Mage, 1865-1914

by R. F. Foster

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Does "Easter 1916" by W.B Yeats provide an answer to whether their death was needless?

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The names his brings out in the next lines--MacDonough, MacBride, Connolly, Pearse--all heroes of the failed Irish Revolution, certainly did not "die in vain"–Yeats is saying that, “ even though the revolt itself was put down by the British, the Irish spirit will never die.  And wherever green is worn these men will be alive again in that spirit.”  Not only does this poem answer the rhetorical question with a resounding "no," but Yeats' entire poetic output and political life from that time on echoes the same "no."  Perhaps no major poet has put himself so completely in his canon as Yeats.

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