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.
I 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. II 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 [...]
Writer: William Butler Yeats
Title of the Author: Irish poet, dramatist, writer, and politician
Full Title: Sailing to Byzantium
Original Title: Sailing to Byzantium
Published Date: 1928
Written Date: 1926
"Sailing to Byzantium" is a poem by William Butler Yeats. It was first published in 1928. The poem is a discussion on death, aging, and the desire to excel. It is divided into four stanzas of eight lines each.
In the first stanza, Yeats mentions an old man who no longer finds joy in the natural world. He wants to escape the limitations of his physical body. And he travels to a place where he can become a work of art, freed from the limitations of time and death. He thinks this country is no longer for old people. Here, the youths love to sing the songs of their youth. They neglect spiritual knowledge, monuments, and arts.
Spiritual Longing: The poem starts with a speaker who feels disconnected from the physical world and longs for a spiritual existence. He seeks a place where he can transcend the limitations of the body and attain a higher, more permanent state of being.
Art and Immortality: Yeats was extremely interested in the idea of art as a means of achieving immortality. In the poem, Byzantium conveys a place where art and artists are revered. The speaker desires to become a work of art, to be "set upon a golden bough to sing to lords and ladies of Byzantium." This contemplates the idea that through their artistic creations, artists can achieve a form of immortality.
Imagery: Yeats engages explicit and sensory-rich imagery to paint a picture of the physical and spiritual worlds. For example, "sensual music" and "monuments of unageing intellect" are evocative images that contribute to the reader's understanding of the poem.
Symbolism: Byzantium itself performs as a powerful symbol in the poem. It depicts an idealized realm of art, culture, and spiritual transcendence. The falcon and fish are also symbols of transformation and rebirth.
"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.