A Terrible Beauty by David Pownall

bookshelves: summer-2015, published-2011

Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Laura
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from June 12 to 19, 2015

Description: The poet WB Yeats travels to propose to legendary beauty Maud Gonne soon after her husband was executed by the British in the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin.

by David Pownall, with original music composed and performed by Max Pownall


Directed by Peter Kavanagh

Irish patriot John MacBride was shot by the British after the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin. His estranged English wife, Maud Gonne, actress, fanatical Irish republican and famous beauty, was in Paris helping nurse war casualties at the time. Forbidden by the British from returning to Ireland to fight for the cause, she went to the coast of Normandy for the summer with her children and there she was visited by Yeats who had been in love with her for many years.
With him he brought the draft of a poem in which MacBride is attacked for his private behaviour but praised for what his sacrifice will achieve in sanctifying the struggle. Over many weeks Yeats pleads with Maud to marry him now she is free, reading his poem to her as he works on improving it. Why, she asks, is Ireland’s greatest poet doing the job of the British press in vilifying John MacBride, a national hero? But will Yeats change his poem, realising doing so will greatly increase the chances of his proposal?


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