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Friday, January 30, 2009


Since this came up in the comments to my post about Yeats the other day, I thought I’d gratify any fellow bibliographical bores with a quick stock-taking of the variants to ‘Under Saturn’. In Michael Robartes and the Dancer the text began:

Do not because this day I have grown saturnine
Imagine that some lost love, unassailable
Being a portion of my youth, can make me pine
And so forget the comfort that no words can tell
Your coming brought; though I acknowledge that I have gone
On a fantastic ride...

As of Later Poems in 1922, if I’m construing Allt and Alspach’s Variorum edition aright (and it ain’t the clearest, I find), these lines became:

Do not because this day I have grown saturnine
Imagine that lost love, inseparable from my thought
Because I have no other youth, can make me pine;
For how should I forget the wisdom that you brought,
The comfort that you made? Although my wits have gone
On a fantastic ride...

So, ‘lost love’ for ‘some lost love’, ‘inseparable’ for ‘unassailable’, no more ‘thought’, ‘wisdom’ not ‘comfort’, that fine ambiguity on ‘no words can tell’ (the comfort that no words can tell/the comfort that no words can tell your coming/the comfort that no words can tell your coming brought) lost, lost, lost!, and no more acknowledgement of his wits going awol.

‘They do not know what is at stake /It is myself that I remake’ etc.


Mark Granier said...

Curiouser. My G&M Collected Yeats (edited by Finneran and George Harper) doesn't contain any 'Later Poems', though it does have 'Additional Poems'. However, the version of Under Saturn in this book is not given as the later version, but is actually in the 1921 collection you mention, Michael Robartes and the Dancer. Moreover, it is actually dated, in italics, 1919.

I checked online and the only Variorum Edition of the Poems of W. B. Yeats I can find is the 1957 G&M edited by Russell K. Alspach (not Finneran):

Finneran does say in his intro that the policy is to publish the "final versions of the poems authorized by Yeats". You'd think he would have included a note about the other version though. Weird, eh?

puthwuth said...

Allt and Alspach, sorry. Maybe Finneran chipped in an introduction. I shall amend.

It was always Yeats's practice to preserve original dates, though, was it not, even in the case of radically altered poems.

Later Poems (1922) was a Selected rather than a collection.

So it was first published in 1921 but in a revised text as of 1922 and in all subsequent editions.

I will now adjourn in search of a genuine Yeats scholar to put me right on this.

sean lysaght said...

PS: Can either of you Yeatsians tell me how 'Robartes' is pronounced?

puthwuth said...

I've always given it three syllables.

Mark Granier said...

Me too, with the accent on the middle syllable.

sean lysaght said...

There once was a boy called Robartes
Whose doctor insisted, 'No smarties!'

A free item of Yeatsiana to the first person to finish this Limerick satisfactorily.

Mark Granier said...

There once was a boy called Robartes
Whose doctor insisted, 'No smarties!
Or you’ll grow up to perne
In a gyre with Aherne
And the rest of those high-talking hearties.’

sean lysaght said...

Mark, you get the prize. Book on its way!