Yeats's Easter 1916 - and why Maud Gonne was not impressed
WB Yeats's iconic poem 'Easter 1916' will feature widely during this centenary year of the Easter Rising.
It is a many-layered work, but is essentially a love poem to Maud Gonne, whom the poet still hoped to capture. Maud rejected the poem in a famous letter to Yeats, writing, "No, I don't like your poem, it isn't worthy of you and above all it isn't worthy of your subject."
She objects to the line "Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart" in reference to the Rising, but also to herself. Scholars have concentrated on this metaphor, but omit the other plainly stated reason she rejected the poem further along in her letter. Maud had sought a rapprochement with her husband John MacBride in 1910 but was rebuffed. After his execution, there was no obstacle, though Yeats's unwelcome poem stirs the old feud.