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ISSN : 1226-4946(Print)
ISSN : 2288-5412(Online)
The Yeats Journal of Korea Vol.24 pp.81-108

“Easter 1916” and Women

Jung Mook Yoon


This paper is an attempt to read “Easter 1916,” one of W. B. Yeats'sbest-known political poems, in terms of its representation of women and the relatedpolitics of sexuality. In the second stanza of the poem where the poet describesfour rebels of the Easter Rising, he shows Countess Constance Markievicz. thewoman whom Yeats knew so well from his childhood in Sligo. Besides her, thewriter of this paper proposes the possibility of reading other two woman images inthe poem: Maud Gonne and Cathleen ni Houlihan. By discussing these described orsuggested images of women, this paper tries to show that they represent the"terrible beauty" which the poet says the rebels of the Easter Rising have generated.
The first woman this paper chooses for discussion is Countess Markievicz. Thepoet describes her mainly as a woman whose "voice grew shrill" because of herspending "nights in argument," and then compares her present shrill voice with the"sweet" voice she had when she was "young and beautiful." In order to understandthe intent of the poet's emphasis on Countess Markievicz's "shrill" voice, the presentwriter reads one passage from Yeats's journal, where he regards "the shrillness" ofvoices of "the political class in Ireland" as the result of "the cultivation of hatred asone energy of their movement." In another similar passage, Yeats relates this hatredto "the sexual abstinence, so common among young men and women in Ireland."Based on this reading of Yeats's prose passages, this paper concludes that CountessMarkievicz's shrill voice reveals her hatred and her negative attitude to sexualmatters.
The next part of the paper deals with two women characters, Maud Gonne andCathleen ni Houlihan. Although she does not appear in the poem, Maud Gonne issuggested in the poem by her similarity to Countess Markievicz and by the poet's mentioning of her husband John MacBride. To support the presence and importanceof Maud Gonne in the poem, the writer of this paper briefly reads two poems ofYeats--"A Prayer for My Daughter" and "Among School Children"--where hedescribes her in a very similar way to the description of Countess Markievicz in"Easter 1916." Another woman, Cathleen ni Houlihan, is also suggested in thepoem, because, in terms of symbolic images, she seems to have led the rebels tothe battlefield of the rising. This paper reads Yeats's play Cathleen ni Houlihan toshow that she also can be understood in this poem in a negative way: shesymbolizes the hatred and its resultant sexual abstinence of the rebels. In this way,like Countess Markievicz and Maud Gonne, she can represent the "terrible beauty"of the Easter Rising.
Lastly, this paper considers another image of woman which appears in the lastand fourth stanza, where the poet ends the poem by naming the rebels "As amother names her child / Where sleep at last has come / On limbs that had runwild." The writer of the paper thinks that the poet needs this image of mother tomitigate his critique of the rebels which he has done in the third stanza, especiallyby using the image of stone. By becoming a real mother himself, unlike another"terrible" mother of Ireland, Cathleen ni Houlihan, the poet can arrive at areconciled and balanced position, and accept the rebels in their contradictory andtragic state.

「1916년 부활절」과 여성*



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