On this day…

… in 1916, a group of Republican dreamers and rebels led by Patrick Pearse launched the Easter Rising in Dublin, seizing control of the GPO and declaring a Republic. The revolt was not widely supported and was easily crushed by the British, who then — with exquisite incompetence — turned victory into defeat by the way they treated the insurgents, thereby engendering a 180-degree turn in public support for the nationalist project. Yeats wrote a wonderful poem — Easter 1916 — about it, and lodged the phrase “a terrible beauty” in our consciousness.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven’s part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
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.