The First Yeats: Poems by W.B. Yeats 1889-1899
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W.B. Yeats (1865-1939) began writing poetry as a devotee of Blake, Shelley, the pre-Raphaelites, and of nineteenth-century Irish poets including James Clarence Mangan and Samuel Ferguson. By the end of his life, he had, as T.S. Eliot said, created a poetic language for the twentieth century. The First Yeats deepens our understanding of the making of that poetic imagination, reprinting the original texts of Yeats's three early collections, The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems (1899), The Countess of Kathleen and Various Legends and Lyrics (1892), and The Wind Among the Reeds (1899). The poems were subsequently heavily revised or discarded. Among them are some of the best-loved poems in English - 'The LakeIsle of Innisfree', 'He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven' - fresh and unfamiliar here in their original contexts, together with Yeats's lengthy notes which were drastically cut in the collected editions. This illuminating edition by Edward Larrissy, editor of W.B. Yeats, The Major Works (Oxford University Press, 2000), includes an introduction that clarifies the literary, historical and intellectual context of the poems, detailed notes, and a bibliography. It offers essential material for reading -and revaluing - one of the great modern poets.
turning go, As my mind made the names of the Fenians. Far from the hazel and oak I rode away on the surges, where high as the saddle bow Fled foam underneath me, and round me a wandering and milky smoke. Long fled the foam-flakes around me, the winds fled out of the vast, Snatching the bird in secret, nor knew I, embosomed apart, When they froze the cloth on my body like armour riveted fast, For Remembrance, lifting her leanness, keened in the gates of my heart. Till fattening the winds
full of ruth. ‘If I were free to do as little As dance upon the spear-grass brittle, ‘Or seek where sweetest water bubbles, Remote from all the hard earth troubles, ‘And cut no wood the whole day long, I’d glad folks’ hearts with blither song.’ The Fairy Pedant SCENE: A circle of Druidic stones FIRST FAIRY Afar from our lawn and our levée, O sister of sorrowful gaze! Where the roses in scarlet are heavy And dream of the end of their days, You move in another dominion And hang
the Rose in his Heart’ (above). p. 141 ‘Mongan Laments the Change that has Come upon him and his Beloved’ Mongan, as Yeats pointed out in a note to ‘Mongan Thinks of his Past Greatness’, was ‘a famous wizard and king who remembers his past lives’. This is another version of ‘Celtic’ transmigration of souls, and probably of Druidism as well. The most illustrious of Mongan’s past lives, however, was as none other than Finn mac Cumhaill, as we discover in Kuno Meyer and Alfred Nutt’s
‘Celtic Heathendom’, above. ‘Moy Tura’. Moytura in Co. Sligo. ‘The Secret Rose’ ‘Conchobar’. Or Conchubar, or Conor, King of Ulster in the heroic age. ‘Keating’. Geoffrey Keating (or Seathrún Céitinn), DD (c.1569–c.1644), author of Foras Feasa ar Éirinn (‘A History of Ireland’, c.1634). ‘Fand’. See note to p. 150, ‘The Secret Rose’: ‘and him / Who met Fand’ (above). ‘Uladh’. Ulster. ‘Mannannan’. See note to Yeats’s note on ‘Michael Roberts Bids his Beloved Be at Peace’, above.
as they would never cease, Her fingers and her garments’ hem. Now in the woods, away with them Went we to find their prince’s hall – On in the woods, away with them, Where white dewdrops in millions fall; On in the woods, away with them, Where tangling creepers every hour Blossom in some new crimson flower; On in the woods, away with them, Where trees made sudden cavern-glooms By roots that joined above our plumes – On in the woods, away with them! And once a sudden laughter sprang