“Yeats’s poetry is driven by the tension between the real world and the ideal world that he imagines.”
This statement delineates the very essence of Yeats’s work. His exploration of conflicting dualities; objectivity and subjectivity, mortality and immortality, the ideal and the real; comprise the fundamental structures of his various paradigms and theories. It is this tension between the real world and Yeats’s ideal world that constitutes the basal elements of his various poetic masterpieces and is perhaps his main undertaking as a poet. This factor of Yeatsian theosophy is evident in each poem I have studied, including Sailing to Byzantium, The Lake Isle of Inisfree, The Second Coming, September 1913, Easter 1916 and The Wild Swans of Coole. Yeats’s interest in mysticism, the occult, ancient civilizations, eastern religions, theosophy and Celtic myths and motifs are highly influential in supporting this tension between the real and the ideal. This statement exemplifies Yeats’s adage; “People who lean on logic and philosophy and rational exposition end by starving the best part of their mind.”
Sailing to Byzantium is perhaps one of Yeats’s best poems, written in the third phase of his career. As Eavan Bland once said, “this poem represents an immortal fury against the tragedy of decay and the inevitability of death.” Sailing to Byzantium confronts the problems posed by advancing age. Yeats found the idea of bodily decay and decrepitude intolerable and in this poem, he outlines a means to escape, to travel in imagination to an ideal place, in which he will be exempt from decay or death, a civilization in which he can spend his eternity as a work of art. It is a definitive statement about the agony of old age. Yeats is out of place in a world teeming with youth and vitality where “the young” are “in one another’s arms,” where “the salmon falls” and where there are “mackerel crowded seas.” The tension between his reality and his concept of paradise is...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document