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Analysis of W.B. Yeats's "September 1913"

Analysis of William Butler Yeats' September 1913


"September 1913" by William Butler Yeats, glorifies Ireland's revolutionaries and damns all those who are not willing to do what is right for the citizens of Ireland. This poem marks a change in Yeats' political views; Yeats went from the aristocratic way of idealizing Ireland to taking on a more revolutionary voice. This poem begins by talking about the Dublin Lockout of 1913, which was about workers wanting to unionize.

Yeats is speaking to the Catholic bourgeois, in this poem. A "till" is a cash register. They fumble with their "greasy till," meaning that they have so much money coming in that they have to grease the drawer of the cash register. Adding "halfpence to the pence" means that they have all this money coming in, but none is going out to the people, who actually need it. They "have dried the marrow from the bone" meaning that the poor are suffering and dying while they live comfortably. "For men were born to pray and save" is a slam against the Catholic bourgeois; they pray and keep their money to themselves. The rich stay rich by not giving any of it away. The last two lines of this stanza function like a stop sign. They are meant to make you stop and think about what you have read. "Romantic Ireland's dead and gone," Yeats thinks that the selfishness of the Catholic bourgeois has made everything become meaningless. Ireland has become a poor nation concerned with money, and when money comes into the equation romance is lost; where there is greed there can not be romance.

John O'Leary was an Irish nationalist and poet. O'Leary worked as a financial agent of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and he was also the editor of The Irish People. He was arrested on September 14, 1865 and charged with high treason. He was sentenced to twenty years in an English jail. He was exiled to Paris in 1874. He received amnesty in 1885 and returned to Dublin, where he convinced Yeats to join the cause of literary nationalism.

The revolutionaries were willing to stand up for Ireland's best interest. They were not afraid of the repercussions of their actions. They made people grow up and acknowledge what was going on. They spread their ideas everywhere like the wind, but they also died like the wind. These people, who fought for Ireland, sacrificed themselves so that Ireland could be a great nation.

"Wild geese" refers to Irish soldiers, who left to serve in continental European armies. In 1745, the recruitment of Irishmen became illegal. At least 120,000 Irishmen were killed and wounded in foreign service. These men went to serve in Swedish, Austrian, French, Spanish, etc. armies.

Edward Fitzgerald served in the British army. He was elected to the Irish Parliament in 1783. In 1792, he was dismissed from the army due to his enthusiasm for the French Revolution. In 1796, Fitzgerald joined the Society of United Irishmen, which is a nationalist organization that wanted Ireland to become independent of English control. He was appointed to head the military committee; this committee was formed to plan a rebellion and get assistance from the French revolutionary regime. The French took their time supplying them with soldiers and arms. The uprising was to take place on May 23, 1798. Thomas Reynolds turned on his fellow conspirators and told the authorities about the group's plan. On March 12, 1798, Reynolds' information led to the seizure of many of the conspirators. Reynolds warned Fitzgerald about the impending raid, so he was able to avoid capture. Fitzgerald was arrested on May 19, while in Dublin. During the capture he was shot in the arm, several weeks later he died in prison from his wound. The rebellion went on as planned; however it was not successful.




Robert Emmet was very involved with the United Irishmen. In 1800, Emmet went to the continent to be with the exiled leaders of the group. He returned to Ireland in 1802. When he returned he began manufacturing weapons and explosives in several placed throughout Dublin. Unlike Edward Fitzgerald's rebellion, this one was kept under wraps; however, an accidental explosion killed one man, and Emmet was forced to move up the date of his rebellion. The rebellion took place in Dublin on July 23, 1803. They failed to capture Dublin Castle, even though it was lightly defended. A large riot broke out in the Thomas Street area following their failure. Emmet personally saw one of his follows kill a man; he then called off the rebellion. Emmet had lost control of his men and they kept on killing. Emmet fled and hid in the Wicklow Mountains; he moved to Harold's Cross, in order to be near his fiancée. He was captured on August 25 and tried for treason. He was hanged on September 20, 1803.

Wolfe Tone was one of the founding members of the Society of the United Irishmen, which was formed in 1791. Tone participated in the 1789 rebellion along with Edward Fitzgerald. Tone was captured and at his trial, which was on November 8, 1789, he asked to be shot. His request was denied. He was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. Before he was to be hanged, he attempted suicide by slitting his throat. He was told he would be okay if he did not speak; he died several days later.

Even though these men were not appreciated by most Irishmen of their time, they would be welcomed with open arms now. The Irish needed to have these kinds of revolutionaries to save them from their current lives. They needed someone to defend them from Catholic control. These men felt like it was their duty to help Ireland. They sacrificed themselves for Ireland's best interest.

Sources

"Dublin Lockout." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 21 Sep 2009, 11:41 UTC. 21 Sep 2009 <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Dublin_Lockout&oldid=315275890>.

"Flight of the Wild Geese." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 22 Sep 2009, 20:21 UTC. 22 Sep 2009. <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Flight_of_the_Wild_Geese&oldid=315574592>.

"John O'Leary (Fenian)." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 30 May 2009, 17:22 UTC. 30 May 2009. <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=John_O%27Leary_(Fenian)&oldid=293345240>.

"Lord Edward FitzGerald." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 15 Sep 2009, 18:02 UTC. 15 Sep 2009. <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Lord_Edward_FitzGerald&oldid=314154701>.

"Robert Emmet." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 27 Sep 2009, 15:37 UTC. 27 Sep 2009. <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Robert_Emmet&oldid=316505679>.

"Wolfe Tone." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 20 Sep 2009, 22:57 UTC. 20 Sep 2009. <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wolfe_Tone&oldid=315188084>.

Yeats, William Butler. "September 1913." Norton Anthology of English Literature: Twentieth Century and After. Vol. F. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York: Norton, 2006. 2030-1.

Published on January 9, 2011 by Sophia Brookshire © All Rights Reserved

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