The Winding Stair and Other Poems

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First edition (1933)

The Winding Stair is a volume of poems by Irish poet W. B. Yeats, published in 1933. It was the next new volume after 1928's The Tower. (The title poem was originally published in 1929 by Fountain Press in a signed limited edition, which is exceedingly rare.)

The title refers to the staircase in the Thoor Ballylee castle which Yeats had purchased and lived in with his family for some time. Yeats saw the castle as a vital connection to the aristocratic Irish past which he admired. The phrase "winding stair" is used in the book's third poem, "A Dialogue of Self and Soul."

Though this volume includes more poems than The Tower, its contents are generally less well-known and thus less frequently anthologised. Among the best-known and anthologised are "A Dialogue of Self and Soul" and "Byzantium."

"A Dialogue of Self and Soul" depicts two aspects of Yeats' personality in confrontation. His soul rejects mundane concerns in favor of metaphysical contemplation, while his self (which sits with an ancient Japanese sword on its lap) cherishes worldly concerns and affirms the sufferings of Yeats' life. Self is given the final word, which includes an affirmation of temporal life, a preparedness to "live it all again".

"Byzantium" is a sequel to "Sailing to Byzantium," (from The Tower), meant to better explain the ideas of the earlier poem.


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