Accelerated English 11
11 February 2013
“Sailing to Byzantium”
You are only young once. William Butler Yeats made the most of his youth, belonging to influential groups and leading literature revival attempts. He believed that once you were older, you start to depart from the real world. He was a magnificent poet, and in one of his most famous poems, this was a leading theme. W. B. Yeats powerful poem “Sailing to Byzantium” is often considered one of his best works, examining “the conflict between youth and age through…the journey for spiritual knowledge” (Napierkowski 210).
Born on June 13, 1865, Yeats grew up in Ireland, and was the son of a lawyer and well-known painter. He was a large part of the societies in Ireland attempting to revive Irish literature. Yeats most famous published works are “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”, “The Second Coming”, and of course, “Sailing to Byzantium”. “Most of Yeats's poetry, however, used symbols from ordinary life and from familiar traditions, and much of his poetry in the 1890s continued to reflect his interest in Irish subjects” (Poetry Foundation). Yeats writing style used ordinary symbols to create a deeper meaning, strengthening the work. This was one of the unique styles used by Yeats that made him such a great poet. Yeats published around 50 works of poetry in his lifetime, and died on January 28, 1939 (nndb.com).
“Sailing to Byzantium” is a very powerful, symbolic poem. Stanza 1 is opened with the line “That is no country for old men” (Napierkowski 207) and automatically signifies a distinction from the lives of the young and the older generation. He introduces a world full of sensuality and youth, and shows the natural world as a place “alien” to the older inhabitants. Yeats uses examples of “Salomon falls” and “mackerel-crowded seas” to symbolize abundance and fertility (Napierkowski 207), signs of the opportunities held by the youthful. The salmon reference, as said by...
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