Rare edition of Yeats poem to go on sale

A rare first edition of the renowned WB Yeats poem 'Easter 1916' could fetch up to €4000 when it goes under the hammer this week.

It is one of just 25 copies privately published by an English journalist the year after the rising and distributed among only a select number of people for fear of its political impact.

Written between May and September 1916, the poem sets out Yeats’ mixed feelings on the tumultuous event.

Adam’s auctioneers in Dublin is holding the sale on Tuesday evening.

Director David Britton said the copy, which belongs to a private collector in the capital, will appeal to both Yeats enthusiasts and historians.

“There is a first edition copy in the National Library and one in the British Library but the whereabouts of the other 22 copies is unknown,” Mr Britton said.

“For these reasons, this copy is undoubtedly rare and will be sought-after by avid WB Yeats and Irish history enthusiasts alike and we expect it to sell well.”

The poem was completed by Yeats in September 1916 in Coole Park, Co Galway - the centre of the Irish literary revival in the early 20th century and once home to Lady Augusta Gregory, dramatist, folklorist and co-founder of the Abbey Theatre.

Just 25 copies were privately published in 1917 by the English liberal journalist Clement Shorter, but it was not made available to the wider public until the New Statesman published it three years later.

Mr Britton added: “Yeats was in England during the Easter Rising and his initial reactions to the battle were undecided.

“He disapproved of violence as a means of securing home rule, and although he knew and respected many of the leaders he was mistrusting of their inclinations.

“When the surrender was followed by a wave of executions, deportations and imprisonments, he accurately foresaw what the effect would be on Irish public opinion and denoted it in this momentous poem.”

This particular first edition copy is signed by the publisher and is expected to net between €3000 and €4000 in Adam’s 19th and 20th Century Art and Literature Sale on Tuesday evening in Dublin.


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