Under the Moon: The Unpublished Early Poetry
W. B. Yeats, George Bornstein
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While working on a facsimile edition and transcription of W. B. Yeats's surviving early manuscripts, renowned Yeats scholar George Bornstein made a thrilling literary discovery: thirty-eight unpublished poems written between the poet's late teens and late twenties. These works span the crucial years during which the poet "remade himself from the unknown and insecure young student Willie Yeats to the more public literary, cultural, and even political figure W. B. Yeats whom we know today." "Here is a poetry marked by a rich, exuberant, awk-ward, soaring sense of potential, bracingly youthful in its promise and its clumsiness, in its moments of startling beauty and irrepressible excess," says Brendan Kennelly. And the Yeats in these pages is already experimenting with those themes with which his readers will become intimate: his stake in Irish nationalism; his profound love for Maud Gonne; his intense fascination with the esoteric and the spiritual.
With Bornstein's help, one can trace Yeats's process of self-discovery through constant revision and personal reassessment, as he develops from the innocent and derivative lyricist of the early 1880s to the passionate and original poet/philosopher of the 1890s.
Reading-texts of over two dozen of these poems appear here for the first time, together with those previously available only in specialized literary journals or monographs. Bornstein has assembled all thirty-eight under the title Yeats had once planned to give his first volume of collected poems. Under the Moon is essential reading for anyone interested in modern poetry.
o’er and done And sealed and finished her unsummered days, What gossip (surely even she has one) Grown moody for a little while will shun The old companions, the well trodden ways? 14 A soul of the fountain A soul of the fountain spake me a word: “Tell me the word of thy spirit’s pleasure For ever my deeds in Abeysherd Laughter and dust to fashion of treasure.” I gave to the spirit an answering word: “Out of an ancient book I’ve heard 6 ‘Be bold’ the sage of old hath said, ‘Be bold, be bold,
Now I am called the white bear For every one has a fine mane there, Something wriggles to that bush near You say a lizard I say a deer, That noise the rustle of a meadow through the trees No I say a prairie rolling in the fresh breeze, 32 Far beyond are the rocky mountains blue And—but you laugh, I will tell no more to you. 25 I sat upon a high gnarled root I sat upon a high gnarled root Counting the songs of sap and fruit When from a pine tree straight and tall That grew amid my mountain
all the dooms of men are spun. 8 The gift I gave once more I give For you may come to winter time But your white flower of beauty live In a poor foolish book of rhyme. March 10th 94 38 Though loud years come Though loud years come and loud years go A friend is the best thing here below. Shall we a better marvel find When the loud years have fallen behind? NOTES TO THE POEMS Abbreviations used in the notes: CLI Collected Letters of W. B. Yeats, vol. I, ed. John S. Kelly and Eric
stanza seven (lines 64-72). I have placed all three of those stanzas within brackets to indicate apparent deletion, but have included them in the main text because by describing first the valley and then within it the old knight who will shortly take over the narration, they make the plot easier to follow. 109-17 Yeats also marked this stanza (#12) for deletion. I have placed it in brackets to indicate that, but have included it for its help in making the narrative more comprehensible.
probably composed that year or the next. The draft appears on one side of a single leaf of paper, with an earlier version of the opening lines on the back, and it is possible that the poem continued on another, now lost leaf. 6 In the manuscript the second word of this line reads “though,” presumably in error for “thou.” 8 Yeats presumably intended “wrapt” as “wrapped,” but in his wayward orthography may have meant “rapt.” 11 This line of the manuscript is heavily revised and the resultant