Sailing to Byzantium : quotations

Shape Shape

Sailing to Byzantium is a notable literary work by William Butler Yeats. A complete discussion of this literary work is given, which will help you enhance your literary skills and prepare for the exam. Read the main text, key info, Summary, Themes, Characters, Literary Devices, Quotations, Notes, to various questions of Sailing to Byzantium.


“That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees,”

Explanation: This quotation mentions the poem’s tone and contrasts youth and old age. It indicates that the world depicted is unsuitable for old people, as they don’t experience the vitality and passion of youth. The vision of the young embracing and birds in the trees symbolizes the vitality and sensuality of youth.

“Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,”

Explanation: In this stanza, the speaker conveys a desire to transcend the limitations of the natural world. They desire to escape the cycle of birth, death, and decay by taking on a new, non-natural form in Byzantium. This reflects the idea of spiritual and artistic transformation.

“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,”

Explanation: Here, the speaker mourns the physical decline of old age, comparing an elderly person to a worn-out garment on a stick. However, the stanza indicates that the soul can rejuvenate and find meaning through artistic and spiritual expression. The act of clapping hands and singing symbolizes the celebration of life’s experiences and imperfections.

“For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;”

Explanation: These lines reveal the idea that the soul can find revival and purpose by appreciating and preserving the artistic and spiritual achievements of the past. It highlights the importance of studying the great achievements of human culture, represented as “monuments of its own magnificence,” to surpass the limitations of the mortal world and connect with something more enduring.