In this multi-volume edition, the poetry of W.B. Yeats (1865-1939) is presented in full, with newly-established texts and detailed, wide-ranging commentary. Yeats began to write verse in the nineteenth century, and over time his own arrangements of poems repeatedly revised and rearranged both texts and canon. This edition of Yeats’s poetry presents all his verse, both published and unpublished, including a generous selection of textual variants from the many manuscript and printed sources. The edition also supplies the most extensive commentary on Yeats’s poetry to date, explaining specific references, and setting poems in their contexts; it also gives an account of the vast range of both literary and historical influences at work on the verse. The poems are presented in order of composition, and major revisions or rewritings of poems result in separate inclusions (in chronological sequence) for these writings as they were subsequently reconceived by the poet.
This first volume collects Yeats’s poetry of the 1880s, from his ambitious and extensive juvenilia (including hitherto little-noticed dramatic poems) to his earliest published pieces, leading to his first substantial book of verse. The pastoral romance of classically-inflected early work like ‘The Island of Statues’ is succeeded in these years by the Irish mythic material that finds its largest canvas in the mini-epic ‘The Wanderings of Oisin’. In Yeats’s work through the 1880s, an adolescent poet’s youthful absorption in Romantic poetry is replaced by a commitment to esoteric religious speculation and Irish political Nationalism. This edition allows readers to see Yeats’s emergence as a poet step by step in compelling detail, in relation to his literary influences – including, significantly, the Anglo-Irish poetry of the nineteenth century. The commentary provides an extensive view of Yeats’s developing personal, cultural, and historical worlds as the poems gain is maturity and depth. From the first attempts at verse of a teenage boy, to the fully accomplished writings of an original poet standing on the verge of popular success with poems such as ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’, Yeats’s poetry is displayed here in unprecedented fullness and detail.