“Whatever is begotten, born and dies” – Explain

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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.


Whatever is begotten, born and dies
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unaging intellect.

These lines are from the poem “Sailing to Byzantium” by the well-known Irish poet W.B. Yeats. In these lines, Yeats analyses profound themes related to human existence, mortality, and the pursuit of immortality through art and intellect.

The first line, “Whatever is begotten, born and dies,” describes the transitory nature of all living things. Yeats mentions the entire life cycle, from birth to death, emphasising the ephemeral quality of human existence. This line is a reminder of the inevitability of mortality and the fleetingness of physical life.

The second line, “Caught in that sensual music all neglect,” indicates that the sensual pleasures and distractions of the physical world often trap people. The word “sensual” refers to life’s material and sensory elements that can distract individuals from higher pursuits, such as intellectual and spiritual growth. People become so absorbed in these sensory pleasures. They neglect or overlook more profound matters.

The final line, “Monuments of unaging intellect,” illustrates an alternative to the transitory nature of physical existence. Yeats means that the intellect, human creativity, and artistic expression can endure beyond the confines of time and mortality. These “monuments” are the works of art, literature, and intellectual achievements humans create. By engaging in intellectual and creative pursuits, individuals can transcend the limitations of their physical bodies and achieve immortality through their contributions to culture and knowledge.

To Sum up, Yeats is advocating for pursuing intellectual and artistic try to escape the limitations of mortal life. He thinks that by creating enduring works of intellect and art, he can achieve immortality that transcends the impermanence of the physical world. These lines from “Sailing to Byzantium” reveal Yeats’ fascination with the eternal—his belief in human creativity’s power to achieve immortality beyond the confines of time and decay.