The Easter Rising : Pearse, print, and the modern Irish elegy
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The 1916 Easter Rising was the watershed political moment of the modern Irish Nation. Padraig Pearse, along with his co-conspirators, initiated an event that dramatically affected the Celtic Revival literary movement. Prior to the rebellion, Pearse left a calculated literary legacy through pamphlets, broadsides, and poems. His most notable contribution to print nationalism was the text of The Easter Proclamation, but the poems he wrote prior to his execution are important contributions to the modern Irish elegiac tradition. Poets took to their work with renewed political fervor and used elegiac forms to mourn the dead and subvert the rhetoric of imperialism. This study focuses on the modern Irish elegy, but also records the creation and reception of Pearse’s documents and actions. Beginning with his political pamphlets, speeches, and poetry, this paper examines how Pearse’s legacy in print impacted the elegiac tradition in Ireland. While it would be impossible to examine every elegy directly influenced by the Easter Rising in this short paper, it is useful to examine disparate elegiac viewpoints on this historical event. Initially tracing the historical production of The Easter Proclamation and Pearse’s series of separatist pamphlets, this exploration shifts to Pearse’s self-elegies and the elegies written by his acquaintances and contemporaries. Yeats is the obvious starting point for Republican elegies, but I will also explore the shifting poetics and elegiac tropes present in the poems of AE (George Russell), and Francis Ledwidge. This paper does not seek to ignore or discredit the print legacy of the other leaders of the Rising (notably Connolly, MacDonagh, and Markiewicz), but focuses on Pearse because of his print legacy and political importance.