Enchantment and disenchantment in political poetry
in American literature and Irish culture, 1910–55
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Yeats’s poem ‘Easter 1916’ marks a movement within his own work from a declared position of non-involvement with politics to one through which he writes himself into the rhetoric of events. Only the year before the Easter Rising, Yeats had famously abstained from commenting on the events of the First World War with his poem ‘On Being Asked for a War Poem’. But ‘Easter 1916’ reflects the poet’s attempt to shape political events according to his own desires for his monument of verse. The ‘terrible beauty’ that Yeats identifies as the unfortunate progeny of the Rising signals beyond the violence and change that political events have engendered, a re-birth of poetic expression that brings the dual modes of enchantment and disenchantment to the fore. This chapter assesses the extent of enchantment and disenchantment with Ireland in political poems by Americans Lola Ridge and Marianne Moore between 1917 and 1941, read against the contexts of the Rising, Irish nationalism and the Second World War. And, in using ‘Easter 1916’ as a model, it also asks to what extent a poet, even when writing a political poem, is always writing for herself.


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