Page last updated at 08:31 GMT, Thursday, 23 October 2008 09:31 UK

A terrible beauty is sold

The first edition was one of 25 copies published privately
The first edition was one of 25 copies published privately

A rare first edition of one of William Butler Yeats' most political poems, Easter 1916, has been sold for nearly twice its expected price.

The poem fetched 7,100euros at Adam's auctioneers in Dublin, and is just one of three copies known to exist worldwide.

Auction director David Britton said it received "exceptional interest".

He said it appealed to enthusiasts both of Yeats and of Ireland's independence struggle from Britain.

William Butler Yeats

Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born

WB Yeats

Yeats wrote the poem in the months following the Easter Rising, but distributed only 25 copies of the poem at first, for fear that wider publication might stir violence.

During the rising, rebels seeking an independent Ireland seized key government buildings for a week before surrendering to British forces.

The other two copies are in the National Library in Dublin and the British Library in London.

The Dublin public initially condemned the rebels for bringing ruin to the capital, but many turned anti-British when the rebellion's commanders were executed within days.

The poem reflects Yeats' own ambivalence to his countrymen's willingness to resort to violence, and insight into the greater bloodshed that lay ahead.

One of the greatest poets of the 20th century, in 1923 Yeats was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

He was born in Dublin and educated in Ireland and England. As a young man he was part of the London literary crowd while also attempting to revive the tradition of literature in his homeland.

Yeats was an Irish patriot but often railed against the hatred and bigotry of some nationalists. He was appointed to the Irish Senate in 1922.

Poet's writings go under hammer
12 Jul 05 |  Northern Ireland


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