Sailing to Byzantium

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English 202


A Path to Immortality: William Butler Yeats Sailing To Byzantium

Yeats takes the reader through a world of natural order and death, and then plays into his journey of becoming an "artifice of eternity." Ponder through this poem to stimulate your imagination into a paradise. The poem portrays Yeats wish to become something more than just a man. Instead of being forgotten and passed by, Yeats describes with rich images his becoming of a monument, to "keep a drowsy Emperor awake."

"That is no country for old men. The young / In on another's arms, birds in the trees" (1-2). Yeats being one of these old men shows his feelings of displacement in the country of the young and in love. This hidden emotion of sadness starts to show the yearning for recognition. Throwing in images of "mackerel-crowded seas," and birth the circle of life theory is put clearly into the readers mind; "Whatever is begotten, born, and dies. / Caught in that sensual music all neglect / Monuments of unaging intellect." (6-8). The "young" are caught in their world of love and "music" ignoring these "monuments" of history. The author is again showing the dislike of great men or himself being ignored by these young passionate people.

"An aged man is but a paltry thing," (9). The author now focuses on himself showing his feeling of uselessness as an elderly man. Describing himself as a "tattered coat upon a stick," shows a loss of hope and maybe depression. Then a jolting spark of hope enters into the picture, "………., unless / Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing" (10-11). The sad tone of the tattered old man flips to a singing soul, the author now focusing on the inner beauty instead of the mortal body. The singing of the soul could be the metaphor of composing a poem. The main point of the journey is now being revealed. The journey to the "holy city of Byzantium" is not a physical city, but Yeats is using it more as a Paradise to retreat...
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