T. Sturge Moore’s “Do We or Do We Not, Know It?” and the Writing of “Byzantium”

  • David Peters Corbett
Part of the Yeats Annual book series (YA)


Yeats’s critics have often quoted, as evidence of the circumstances of the composition of “Byzantium”, two passages from the correspondence between Yeats and Thomas Sturge Moore. On 16 April 1930 Moore wrote:

Your Sailing to Byzantium, magnificent as the first three stanzas are, lets me down in the fourth, as such a goldsmith’s bird is as much nature as a man’s body, especially if it only sings like Homer and Shakespeare of what is past or passing or to come to Lords and Ladies. (LTSM 162)

and on 4 Octobcr Ycats sent Moore a copy of the finished poem “hoping that it may suggcst symbolism for thc covcr” of what became Tile Winding Stair and Other Poems (see YA 4, Plate 13):

Thc poem originatcs from a criticism of yours. You objected to the last verse of Sailing 10 Bycazantium because a bird made by a goldsmith wasjust as natural as anything else. That showed mc that the idea needed exposition. (LTSM 164)


Human World Ultimate Sense Prose Version Early Poem Visionary Experience 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    See, for instance, Curtis Bradford, “Yeats’s Byzantium Poems: A Study of Their Development”, in John Unterecker (ed.), Yeats: A Collection of Critical Essays (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1963) pp. 93–130 (115–16) (hereafter cited as YBP);Google Scholar
  2. Jon Stallworthy, Between the Lines: Yeats’s Poetry in the Making (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963) pp. 115–16.Google Scholar
  3. See also Grosvenor E. Powell, “T. Sturge Moore and Yeats’s Golden Bird”, in Order in Variety: Essays and Poems in Honor of Donald E. Stanford, edited by R. W. Crump (London and Toronto: Associated University Presses, 1991) pp. 104–16, which treats the topic in depth.Google Scholar
  4. 2.
    Warwick Gould, “Thomas Sturge Moore and W. B. Yeats — An Afterword”, YA 4 157–60 (157).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    See Moore to Wilson 29 January 1928, Emory. Moore delivered a lecture on “Taste in Poetry” which made use of material published the following year in his book Armour for Aphrodite (London: Grant Richards and Humphrey Toulmin, Cayme Press, 1929).Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    See Grosvenor E. Powell, “Yeats’s Second ‘Vision’: Berkeley, Coleridge, and the Correspondence with Sturge Moore”, MLR 76 (1981) 273–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 12.
    See A. Norman Jcffares, W. B. Yeats: A New Biography (London: Hutchinson, 1988) p. 295, LTSM 159–61.Google Scholar
  8. 17.
    For instances of the unusual nature of Yeats’s composition, sec pp. 115, 125, 130, and Curtis Bradford, Yeats at Work (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1965) p. 7.Google Scholar
  9. 18.
    Richard Ellmann, The Identity of Yeats (London: Faber and Faber, 1954) pp. 220–1.Google Scholar
  10. 21.
    Ellmann, The Identity of Yeats, pp. 220–1; cited in A. Norman Jeffares, A New Commentary on the Poems of W.B. Yeats (London: Macmillan, 1984) p. 215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Peters Corbett

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations