YEATS, WILLIAM BUTLER (1865-1939, Irish poet)
Lot 524
YEATS, WILLIAM BUTLER (1865-1939, Irish poet) AUTOGRAPH REVISED MANUSCRIPT OF HIS POEM 'ARE YOU CONTENT' AND AUTOGRAPH DRAFT OF HIS POEM 'THE SPIRIT MEDIUM', [late 1930s]
Sold for £15,000 (US$ 25,212) inc. premium
Lot Details
YEATS, WILLIAM BUTLER (1865-1939, Irish poet)
AUTOGRAPH REVISED MANUSCRIPT OF HIS POEM 'ARE YOU CONTENT' AND AUTOGRAPH DRAFT OF HIS POEM 'THE SPIRIT MEDIUM' BOTH FROM LAST POEMS' GIVEN TO EDITH SHACKLETON HEALD, written on either side of the same sheet of paper [late 1930s]

(i) AUTOGRAPH REVISED MANUSCRIPT OF 'ARE YOU CONTENT', 24 lines in three eight-line stanzas, with several autograph revisions and deletions preserving reconsidered readings, 1 page, octavo, on the recto of the sheet, filing holes, not dated

The version in this manuscript, two of three stanzas:

I call on those that call me son
grandson or great grandson
On Uncles, Aunts, great uncles or great Aunts
To judge what I have done
Have I that put it into words
spoilt what old loins have sent,
Eyes spiritualized by death may judge
Men cannot, but I am not content?...

Infirm and aged I might stay
In some good company,
I who have always hated work,
Smiling at the Sea;
Or demonstrate in my own life
What Robert Browning meant
By an old hunter talking with Gods
But I am not content.

Almost all the punctuation (to which Yeats was famously averse) in the printed version is not present herein. In the printed version the first stanza ends: '...Eyes spititualised by death can judge, / Men cannot, but I am not content'. The penultimate lines in the two versions are also different.

(ii) AUTOGRAPH ROUGH (FIRST) DRAFT OF 'THE SPIRIT MEDIUM', (untitled herein), c. 12 lines with autograph revisions and deletions preserving reconsidered readings, 1 page, octavo, on the verso of the sheet, filing holes, not dated

The printed version begins:

Poetry, music, I have loved, and yet
Because of those new dead
That come into my soul and escape
Confusion of the bed,
Or those begotten or unbegotten
Perning in a band,
I bend my body to the spade
Or grope with a dirty hand...

Only about five lines in this draft correspond with the published text (24 lines). For instance the only survival in the printed version (above) from this manuscript is 'Of those begotten or unbegotten.'

(iii) With an envelope inscribed by Edith Shackleton Heald: 'M.S. of "Are You Content' - given to me by Mrs. Yeats in Yeats's room at the Hotel Sejour during the night after he died when I had been watching over him until 4 a.m. She also gave me as keepsakes his fountain pen and his small Oxford dictionary E.S.H.' Edith Shackleton Heald, a journalist, was Yeats's last mistress.

The poems in Last Poems are among the most admired of Yeats's work. This manuscript was not used for The Variorum Edition. Balliett notes an autograph manuscript and a typescript of each of these poems at the National Library of Ireland; he also mentions copies at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. His references are too bland, however, to get any sense of their status. The main archive of Yeats's manuscripts is in the National Library of Ireland, with numerous collections in American libraries.

PROVENANCE: Christie's, 6 July 1978, lot 50 (part); Arthur Freeman.

REFERENCES: Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats, 1969; Jon Stallworthy, Vision and Revision in Yeats's Last Poems, 1969; Jon Stallworthy, Between the Lines: Yeats's Poetry in the Making, 1963; R.F. Foster, W.B. Yeats: A Life, 2 volumes, 1997 and 2003; The Variorum Edition of the Poems of W.B. Yeats, edited by Peter Allt and Russell Alspack, 1957; Conrad Balliet, W.B. Yeats, A Census of the Manuscripts, 1990.
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