YEATS, W.B. The Winding Stair and Other Poems [Bookplate of Matilda Constance Ismay on front pastedown]
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London: Macmillan, 1933. First edition, first issue. Crown octavo. pp. ix, 101. Half-title with Macmillan monogram and address on verso. Olive green blind-stamped cloth, to a design by T. Sturge Moore. Bookplate of Matilda Constance Ismay on front pastedown. A near. fine copy.
Wade 169. Connolly 100, 56D.
First edition of this great collection of poetry from Yeats’ later years, second only to The Tower. One of 2000 copies printed. The Winding Stair contains “A Dialogue of Self and Soul”, “Coole Park”, “1929”, “Coole Park and Ballylee”, “1931”, “For Anne Gregory”, “Byzantium”, “Vacillation” and theCrazy Jane poems. A different collection under the same title was published in a limited edition by the Fountain Press in New York in 1929, but that collection did not include most of the poems cited above. “Yeats is now seen as one of a handful of Irish writers whose influence and example helped create twentieth-century modernist literature in the English language. His huge international reputation is securely based on the mystery and grandeur of his late verse and the poignancy of his love poetry, but he first came to fame as the exotically Celtic poet of a ‘new’ nationalist Ireland: almost single-handed, he made Irishness culturally fashionable. Spearheading a great cultural renaissance, he moved into his maturity as the voice of his country” (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography). “Much as he seeks in this long volume, bringing together 64 poems written in the late 1920s and early 1930s, images of order and serenity, he is still drawn to the wild, the dark and the passionate. On the one hand, Yeats is self- consciously inventing new traditions. The “Romantic Ireland” that he once associated with the old Fenian John O’Leary is now located firmly in Coole Park, the home of his friend Augusta Gregory, which is repeatedly used in the volume as the location of an imagined ascendancy. But, on the other hand there is Crazy Jane, based on an old woman who lived in a cottage near Gort, through whom Yeats speaks in a series of seven poems. She is wild, earthy, reckless, fizzing with the energy of sex and defiance. She reminds Yeats and his readers that Ireland’s greatest poet is not yet ready for the sanctity of an honoured grave” (Fintan O’Toole, The Irish Times). A Provenance: From the library of Matilda Constance Ismay whose brother-in-law was the infamous
Joseph Bruce Ismay (1862-1937) English businessman who served as chairman and managing director of the White Star Line. In 1912, he came to international attention as the highest-ranking White Star official to survive the sinking of the company’s new flagship RMS Titanic, for which he was subject to severe criticism. The tragedy sent him into a state of deep depression from which he never trulyemerged. He kept a low profile afterwards and he lived part of the year in a large cottage, Costelloe Lodge, in the townland of Derrynea (near Casla) in Connemara, County Galway.
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