The Winding Stair

  • A. Norman Jeffares


The Winding Stair, Yeats wrote to Sturge Moore on 26 September 1930 when discussing the design for the cover of the volume, is ‘the winding stair of Ballylee enlarged in a symbol but you may not think the stair, even when a mere symbol, pictorial. It might be a mere gyre — Blake’s design of Jacob’s ladder — with figures, little figures’. Memories became distilled as Yeats grew older, yet the range of his poetry was wide. Longer lyrics and shorter in The Winding Stair celebrate his friendships and their results. He remembered the Gore-Booth sisters and weighed up the achievement of Lady Gregory at Coole in noble poems; and even more condensed personal memories appeared in such poems as ‘ Quarrel in Old Age’ (CP 286); ‘The Results of Thought’ (CP 286); and ‘Stream and Sun at Glendalough’ (CP 288). The dialogue of self and soul developed; the claims of the supernatural were weighed in ‘Byzantium’ and ‘Vacillation’; and new characters, Crazy Jane and Old Tom the lunatic, emerged in short poems which dealt with desecration and the lover’s night. Deeper reading in philosophy and fresh reading in literature was recorded in such poems as ‘The Delphic Oracle upon Plotinus’ (CP 306) or ‘I am of Ireland’ (CP 303).


Trinity College French Revolution East India Company Animal Spirit National Gallery 
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© A. Norman Jeffares 1968

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  • A. Norman Jeffares

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