Study Guide

Easter, 1916 Principles

By William Butler Yeats

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It might be hard to see at first, but Yeats does have some principles. He doesn't necessarily have the same principles as the people who died in the Easter Uprising, but that doesn't mean he has none of his own. Yeats seems to be more interested in long, long-term historical changes than he is in individual battles, like those that took place during "Easter, 1916." You might not agree with his stand-back-from-history-and-write-poetry-about-it approach to life. But at least the dude's consistent about his beliefs.

Questions About Principles

  1. What, if anything, do you think is the main principle that Yeats tries to communicate to us in this poem? Is there one?
  2. How do Yeats' poetic principles differ from the principles of the people who fought in the Easter Uprising? How can you tell, based on the text of the poem? 
  3. What does Yeats mean when he compares a stone to "Hearts with one purpose alone" (41). Whose hearts is he talking about?

Chew on This

Deep down, Yeats questions his own principles as a poet and fears that he might be a coward compared to the people who died in the Easter Uprising.

In this poem, it doesn't look like Yeats has any principles at all. In fact, he can't even explain why he's writing this poem to begin with.

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