PUBLIC RECITAL OF EASTER 1916
Join in a public open-air recital of this iconic poem
The footbridge at Stephen St Car Park,
A Terrible Beauty – a public recital of Easter 1916
The words ‘all changed, changed utterly, a terrible beauty is born’ must be woven into the DNA of all Irish people ever since WB Yeats wrote the poem Easter 1916, sometime between May and September but not published until 1921. The Easter rising had taken place on April 24th when Yeats was staying at the home of a friend Sir William Rothenstein in Gloucestershire. Sir William later reported that Yeats was troubled by the events and from his absence from Ireland while others were risking or sacrificing their lives. By mid-May 1916, he had already written to Maud Gonne who was in France, saying that the Dublin tragedy was ‘a great sorrow and anxiety’ and that he was trying to write a poem about the executed leaders. He referred to this as “terrible beauty has been born again.”
Although he had begun to settle and build a life in England, Yeats now thought of Ireland once again and told close friends that he believed he would return to Ireland “to begin building again.” However, he spent the summer months in Normandy with Maud and her daughter Iseult, failing once again to persuade Maud to marry him. If he wrote the poem there, he did not share the completed work with Maud until October of that year. Her response to the work, dated November 8th was curt; “No I don’t like your poem, it isn’t worthy of you and above all, it isn’t worthy of the subject - ”
The ‘terrible beauty’ refrain from the poem may appear to sum up the events of the Easter Rising – as we look back on it in this centenary year - but that could hardly have been how it felt just four months after the event itself. Yet Yeats somehow saw through the bombs, the bullets and the executions, ignored the accusations and recriminations and pulled out the one truth from the event that would sustain – for 100 years.
Many people will be familiar with Easter 1916 from Leaving Certificate studies and some may prefer to forget it for those reasons but it is a poem with extraordinary resonance, particularly in this centenary year.
Yeats Day is inviting everyone – young and old – local, national and international, to join local actor Johnny Carty and other guests in the only outdoor public recital of this famous poem. Please don’t worry if you don’t know the words or can’t remember them; the poem will be distributed to everyone on the day.
The recital will be led from the footbridge at Stephen St car park and people can assemble on the car park side of the bridge – just before 3pm. Sligo Concert Band will entertain people before the recital. There are very few occasions for poetry to be recited out loud in a large group so we would love to see as many people as possible attend.
The event is sponsored by Sligo County Council as part of its extensive commemorative programme for 2016. Free birthday cake, sponsored once again, by O’Hehir’s Bakery, will be distributed after the recital at the Italian Quarter.
The recital is the key event on Saturday June 11; the entire day is dedicated to Easter 1916. In the morning, Gretta Halpin from the Irish Print Union, will tell the story about the printing of the Easter Rising Proclamation. Author Judith Hill, who is the biographer of Lady Augusta Gregory, Yeats’ long-time friend, mentor and muse. Judith will talk discuss Lady Gregory’s involvement with 1916 and her response to the poem. Both talks are free and will take place in Pollexfen House, Wine St
After the public recital, Professor Adrian Frazier will be joined by great grand-daughter of Maud Gonne, Aisling Law and artist Emma Stroude, to discuss Maud Gonne’s involvement in 1916 and her influence on and response to the poem. This event will be held at The Model at 4.30pm.