“Hanrahan lay there through the length of the day, in his pains and his weakness, and when the shadows of the evening were falling he heard her voice again coming up the hillside, and she came in and boiled the potatoes and shared them with him the same way as before. And one day after another passed like that, and the weight of his flesh was heavy about him. But little by little as he grew weaker he knew there were some greater than himself in the room with him, and that the house began to be filled with them; and it seemed to him they had all power in their hands, and that they might with one touch of the hand break down the wall the hardness of pain had built about him, and take him into their own world. And sometimes he could hear voices, very faint and joyful, crying from the rafters or out of the flame on the hearth, and other times the whole house was filled with music that went through it like a wind. And after a while his weakness left no place for pain, and there grew up about him a great silence like the silence in the heart of a lake, and there came through it like the flame of a rushlight the faint joyful voices ever and always… ‘I am after my death,’ he said, ‘and into the very heart of the music of Heaven…’”
FIRST EDITION, ONE OF ONLY 500 COPIES. A PRESENTATION COPY SIGNED AND INSCRIBED BY YEATS AND WITH A REMARKABLE “ZODIACAL SIGNATURE” CORRESPONDING TO YEATS’S BIRTHDAY.
Inscribed by Yeats in dark ink on the front free end paper in the month of publication (although the title page date says 1904, it was published on May 16, 1905) to American socialite Julia H. Worthington (1856-1913), friend of the collector and legendary patron literature John Quinn:
“Mrs. Worthington from her friend the writer, with pleasant memories of the Hudson. / WB Yeats. May 1905” with a series of zodiacal symbols written beneath.
Although the association is interesting – Yeats stayed at Worthington’s house on the Hudson during his American tour and in May 1905, she visited him in London – it is the symbols after the inscription that make this copy extraordinary. They are comprised of four sets of two – with four celestial bodies and four zodiacal signs. The male and female ones are in fact Mars and Venus, and the whole set reads thus: Moon in Aquarius, [Leo/Sagittarius?] Mars; Saturn in Libra; Venus in Taurus. The third character is more challenging to decipher, but the seven provide enough information to find the link to Yeats – these are the zodiacal positions of the celestial bodies as they were on June 13, 1865, Yeats’s birthday, making this his “Zodiacal signature”.
To understand Yeats’s interest in astrology, one must turn only to his 1925 text A Vision, in which he articulates how an astrological signature reflects the thematic arc of one’s life. An inscription as illustrative as this is singular and revealing, for it underscores both the writer’s relationship with the secret society the Golden Dawn, as well as the interest in alchemy that governed much of his imaginative explorations in the second half of his life.
(Note: Thanks to Mr. Sammy Jay for his discovery of the significance of the symbols and from whom much of this description was adapted).
It is in The Stories of Red Hanrahan that the Irish poet and mythographer writes into existence his own folkloric figure: Red Owen Hanrahan. Yeats sets his fiery wandering poet (or “gleeman”) off on a series of adventures and encounters with supernatural phenomenon – drinking, stealing wives, and casting spells with his magic words. Ever-intent to explore his interest in Celtic folklore, Yeats crafts here a book that embodies his deep commitment to preserving and celebrating Irish history and culture. Red Hanrahan originally appeared Yeats’s 1897 work Stories of Red Hanrahan and the Secret Rose but Yeats heavily revised the text for this 1904/1905 book – so much so that this edition is generally considered a first edition of a new work.
Exquisitely printed and published by Yeats’s sister, Elizabeth Corbet Yeats, at the Dun Emer Press. Dundrum: The Dun Emer Press, 1904 . Octavo, original linen-backed blue boards, paper label on upper board; custom box. Lacking original paper spine label and nearly imperceptible repair to spine. Light wear to corners and edges.
THIS IS LIKELY A UNIQUE EXAMPLE OF YEATS’S ZODIACAL SIGNATURE: WE ARE UNABLE TO LOCATE ANY OTHER BOOK “SYMBOLICALLY” SIGNED.
Price: $11,000 .