Body and Soul

Topics: Life, William Butler Yeats, Question Pages: 3 (804 words) Published: March 3, 2013
The Dying Generation
The body is a material thing. Over time it becomes incapable to continue in the physical world. The soul is trapped within the body, and when the body can no longer continue in the physical world the soul wants to transcend to an otherworldly plane.

In William Butler Yeats’s poem “Sailing to Byzantium” the speaker describes the journey to release the soul from his ageing body. The poet uses imagery of life such as birds, trees, salmon, and mackerel crowded seas. These images of life are “The dying generations” (line 3). How is it that these images of new life are dying? Simple; as life goes on the young becomes old, therefore, the young fades becoming this dying generation.

As both the poem and journey progress the author stresses how the soul can no longer find a home within the ageing body.
An aged man is but a paltry thing.
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress (line 9-12)
The first line of this represents the emotion of the speaker; unwanted and misplaced. The aged man feels like a scarecrow “a tattered coat upon a stick” (line 10).The job of the scarecrow is to scare birds away. In the first stanza of the poem the author represents new life with birds. This aged body seems to be scaring away new life, and the soul within is singing louder trying to find its way out. The soul is trapped wanting to release the youth it still has instead of being trapped in the body that scares away the youth.

Yeats’s seems to contradict himself in his poem “Crazy Jane talks with the Bishop”. In this poem the Bishop resembles the voice of the man in “Sailing to Byzantium”. The Bishop tells Crazy Jane that “Those [her] breast are flat and fallen now/ [and] those veins must soon be dry” (lines3-4). The Bishop believes that her soul should just leave her body. He says it is old and on its way to death. She has no reason to keep her physical body. But Jane...
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