sailing/ byzantium explaination wb yeats

 SAILING TO BYZANTIUM POEM EXPLAINATION - W.B YEATS


SAILING TO BYZANTIUM POEM EXPLAINATION - W.B YEATS


Sailing to Byzantium


(1)

That is no country for old men .  The young
In one another's arms , birds in the trees
 -Those dying generations - at their song ,
The salmon - falls , the mackerel - crowded seas , 
Fish , flesh , or fowl , commend all summer long 
Whatever is begotten , born , and dies  .
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

 

 
(2) 
 
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, 
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;  
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come 
To the holy city of Byzantium.

 

 (3)

O sages standing in God's holy fire 
As in the gold mosaic of a wall , 
Come from the holy fire , perne in a gyre ,
And be the singing - masters of my soul .
 Consume my heart away ;  sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal 
It knows not what it is;  and gather me 
Into the artifice of eternity . 

 

 (4)

Once out of nature I shall never take 
My bodily form from any natural thing , 
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling 
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake ;  
Or set upon a golden bough to sing 
To lords and ladies of Byzantium 
Of what is past , or passing , or to come.


Explaination 

Stanza I. Ireland , the poet feels , is a land for young , imaginative artists and not old men .  The young are drawn into the creative cycle while the old continue their songs of youthful reminiscences.  One of the central themes of the poem is the opposition between youth and old age.  Yeats was preoccupied with the decay and loss due to old age.  He was 63 when he wrote this poem.  He resented the loss of youth and physical beauty.  Everyone who is allured by the natural cycle of birth and death gets trapped within it and life's preoccupations make intellectual life seem relatively worthless in spite of the greater permanence of products of the spirit and of art.  The poet contrasts the merely sensual and the truly spiritual and Byzantium becomes a symbol of spiritual achievement while the poem becomes a journey towards true spiritual life.  Every verse of the could be considered as one stage of the four - part journey . 


Stanza II .  Yeats is grieved at the innumerable problems of old affect man's ability to live life pleasurably and fruitfully.  Old age is as hollow as a scarecrow, with the physical appearance of a human being but lacking the human essence.  One needs to look at old age as the liberation of the soul which actively experiences the beauty in the world around.  Yeats is unhappy with the tendency of being content with what is around instead of trying to search for beauty beyond one's immediate range.  Critical of such complacency, Yeats seeks fresh stimulus in sailing to Byzantium.  


Stanza III Yeats refers to the sages in the frieze at St.  Appolinaire at Ravenna and invokes them to spiral down the cone to him .  Perne also means a kind of hawk and the image of a bird is like the descent by the sages.  It is convincingly linked with the golden bird of the last stanza.  In the world of art an image is as holy as a sage.  God , the supreme artist and is the artificer of eternity and the holy fire , like the poet with his imagination which makes all artifices. 


Stanza IV.  Yeats seems to allude to Hans Anderson's tale 'The Emperor's Nightingale' in which reference is made to the Emperor's palace at Byzantium where there was a tree made of gold and silver and artificial birds that sang.  Yeats may also have in mind Keats ' Ode to a Nightingale ' — ' the self same song heard in ancient days by Emperor and Clown ' .  If reincarnated the poet would want to take his form from the artist's imagination so that he would defy the transitoriness of all natural things and their imminent decay.  As an artifice he would be immortal and sing of what is past or passing or to come rather than follow the course taken by fish, flesh and fowl of birth and death.

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