The Context and Development of Irish Literature:
History, Poetry, Landscape

Chapter Four:  From Home Rule to Civil War:  Ireland in the Early 20th Century, page 5

But, in one of history’s great ironies, the British themselves ensured that the rebellion would have a powerful effect. They declared Martial Law, and under its rubric many civilians were killed and wounded (including the murder by a British soldier of Francis Sheehy Skeffington, an intellectual and avowed pacifist, and one of James Joyce's long-time friends [he is the figure of MacCann in Portrait]).  The British command quickly tried and condemned to death each of the leaders of the insurrection, and between May 3 and May 12 the British executed 14 of them by firing squad.  The Irish citizenry were horrified, and soon the leaders of the Easter 1916 Rebellion had become glorious martyrs, joining a long list of Irish who had died trying to free their country from the British.

View Easter 1916 Presentation.

Yeats’s poem "Easter 1916" is the most famous mythologizing of these figures, and what is perhaps the most famous single event in Modern Irish history:

I write it out in a verse--

MacDonagh and MacBride

And Connolly and Pearse

Now and in time to be,

Wherever green is worn,

Are changed, changed utterly:

A terrible beauty is born.

As Pearse waited in his cell in Kilmainham Gaol for his execution, he wrote his final poem, titled "A Mother," which imagines a mother's thoughts on the sacrifice of her children to the cause of Irish freedom.  (View "A Mother.")

View images of Kilmainham Gaol, where the rebels were held and executed.

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