Beware of the thing that is coming, beware of the risen people,
Who shall take what ye would not give. Did ye think to conquer the people,
Or that Law is stronger than life and than men's desire to be free?
We will try it out with you, ye that have harried and held,
Ye that have bullied and bribed . . . tyrants, hypocrites, liars!
--From "The Rebel" by Patrick Pearse
Left to right, Easter Rising leaders Padraic Pearse, James Connolly, and Tom Clarke.
On April 24, 1916, Easter Monday, 1,700 men, and not a few women, set out from their homes, businesses, and farms "to take what (the British) would not give," in the words of Patrick Pearse, that is, control of Ireland to the Irish people. This was destined to be another in a long string of failed efforts to wrest that control from Britain, Ireland's overseer, spanning centuries. But there was something different about this bid, which the poet William Butler Yeats perhaps best conveyed in his poem "Easter 1916." Yeats wrote, in part:
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.
Their five days of dogged resistance brought desolation to much of Dublin, pitting men and women armored with a dream against one of the world's best-equipped armies. Yet, as Yeats depicts, the executions of the Rising's leaders jolted many in Ireland. With the deaths of MacDonagh, MacBride, Connolly, Pearse and the others, it became clear: These men may have been foolhardy, but their stalwart resistance became a point of pride, a point of unity. The Irish came to embrace these men, flaws and all. They became the stuff of legend, while the British army was increasingly seen as a brutal, hostile, foreign force.
John Dillon, a leading member of John Redmond's Irish Parliamentary Party, saw the parliamentary party's efforts to gain home rule coming undone, saying the government seemed intent on "manufacturing Sinn Feiners." He could not hold in check his indignation at the ineptness of the tactic of executions. Spurning caution, speaking in Parliament, he praised the insurgents for fighting bravely and chivalrously, adding "it would have been a damn good thing for you if your soldiers were able to put up as good a fight as did these men in Dublin."
Read our story of the Easter Rising: Dublin, Easter Monday, 1916: 1,700 Take On the British Empire and follow the events of that eventful week on our Dates page.
To commemorate this event and honor the men and women who rose up in 1916, WGT introduces its “Heroes of the Easter Rising” products. To the left is an example of one of the graphics, which use the famous proclamation issued that day as the background.
Read more about the Easter Rising:
* The Hero who Was Written Out of Ireland's History (Irish Independent)
* Brothers in Arms (The Irish Echo)