What does “Byzantium’ stand for in W.B. Yeats’ poems

Byzantium’ is a symbolic poem that started life as a note in the diary of W.B. Yeats (1865-1939) in 1930. Yeats’ Byzantium is, therefore, a city of imagination, representing everything worthy that the modern era has lost, in its mad pursuit of material and temporal achievements. He’d long been an admirer of Byzantine art and culture and wanted to combine this passion with his belief in the spiritual journey of the artistic human soul.  

More Notes: W B Yeats

Byzantium started life as a Greek colony before becoming Constantinople under the Romans and is now modern Istanbul. The poet through his imagination idealizes Byzantium as a symbol of Heaven. It’s an ideal place of culture and wisdom. Again, Byzantium symbolizes the spiritual and intellectual realm.  

It is considered to be one of the famous places for its rich culture, diversity, and art. The poem symbolizes a realm of spiritual and intellectual values where other physical values of modernity have no value. Byzantium may resolve the eternal struggle between the limitations of the Physical world and the aspirations of the immortal spirit.  

Unlike Ireland, the poet perceives Byzantium as a source of bodily and spiritual rejuvenation for his aging and redemption for his monuments. Yeats, in the latter years of his life, choose to sail to Byzantium and transform into an entity that has fully grown out of the nature of the society. The poet symbolically leaves the world of limitations to usher into a world of permanence and artistic eternity.  

More Notes: Suggestions

The golden bird is a timeless artifact like the poem “Byzantium” itself. The repeated use of the term ‘complexities’ by the poet, signifies that there is no easy solution to the riddle of life and death, mortality and immortality, and the question of salvation or redemption. The poet in the emperor’s palace finds the pavement on which a mystic fire burns and in which the soul of the dead dances. They purify themselves. Thus, in accordance with Yeats, Byzantium is an ideal place for the soul’s purification.  

Rashedul Islam
Rashedul Islam

Hi, This is Rashedul. Researcher and lecturer of English literature and Linguistics.

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