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Poetry 4

Sailing to Byzantium by Teats

William Butler Yeats' poem "Sailing to Byzantium" is concerned with the passage of
time, and how someone can become eternal. This poem reflects his fears about aging and
becoming irrelevant. The narrator of this poem is concerned with the idea of the
human/animal condition, which is that we are born, we live, and then we die. He seeks out
a place where he will be able to join the monuments of history, so that he will be able to
live on forever. Yeats is considered as post-romantic since he is influence by the
romanticism. However, he agrees with them in admiring nature and describing the natural
scenes but, when it comes to identify the voice of man and nature, he will give the priority
to man. Unlike the romanticists, he refuses the identification with nature.
Title and Why he Chooses Byzantium:
The act of sailing carries the meaning of continuation, of moving from place to
Byzantium is an ancient Greek city, founded by Greek colonists from Megara and
named after their king Byzas .He chooses it because:
*It is known by its spiritual value. The church and Christianity on it, is very influential
that it is considered the center and symbol of the religion power.
*Its artificial magnificence for ages and centuries. Because of its rich history and
monuments that dedicates to the past, he hopes to become a monument himself and
immortal. He seeks out a place where he will be able to join the monuments of history, so
that he will be able to live on forever.
* Intersection poetic place where the western and east intersect. He combines different
cultures together to show that, as colonized poet, he never obstruct by colonization of
England, emphasizing that they are one and cannot be separated.
*He wants go to this place where he can enjoy freedom that he cannot find in his
country and he translates this feeling by sailing. It is a perfect city and this perfection is
not yet in Irland. However, sails metaphorically to B. This freedom also refers to the
freedom of the artists in using his imagination and choosing any place or subject.
How he reshape his cultural or people?
By referring to different places, events and time in indirect way and moving from the local
to the universal .Also to show that art not limited and doesnt stock to certain place or

Stanza 1:
He opens the poem by a contrast between the young and old. His country Irland is
where the Old men feel out of place and everything heralds a new life , a new young
men.Than he says that all creatures are dying from the top of the tree birds to the bottom
of the sea salmon,mackerel.In the next line he submits(well clear structure) his idea to
emphasize it, fish , flesh or fowl all going to be dead. Among all this facts, he is just worry
about the creatures that die silently, no one around them and leave the life without any
memory of them or any impression on people. He gives them the way to be immortal and
people become around him which is the focusing in their intellectual power and ignore
their sensual power. Enrich their minds with knowledge and they will be like monuments
with their unaging intellect.

Stanza 2:
Yeats starts the second stanza by saying that being an old man is an insignificant
thing like a scarecrow, tattered coat upon a stick. The old man is coat like the fish in the
sea and hanged in a stick, only body without soul, by the power of the materialistic
sense.Unless(there is hope), his soul claps its hand and sing louder so that the tatter will
hears him and he will not be ignored.He wants to say that if you do not want to be an
ignored old man like the scarecrow, you should enrich your soul by studying and give
knowledge to the others so they will be around you.Studying is the only power of mind
that the old man have.So, they should not ignore the intellectual power and mix them
together so that people will never lose interest to stay with them.Than he mentions the
reason behind his visit to B, which is to avoid this and emphasize that collecting different
knowledge from different places makes your knowledge immortal, universal and have the
same magnificence of the monuments in B.
Stanza 3:

He starts the stanza with an addressing to the sages as Gods saints who will live in the
heart of the people forever. These saints are shown in the gold mosaic, that refers to the
mosaics that he sees in San Apollinaire Nuovo, which is in Ravenna Italy, with a gold
background. Yeats is pleading to the saints to come out of the holy fire, be the singing
masters of his soul which is singing and gathering the people around him, and consume
his heart to give life to the hole body like a gyre.He wants them to feed him like the
movement of the gyre, starting from the heart, which is the center, and than the mind.
Another request is to combine the power of his mind and his dead body, that he refers to
as dying animal, together so that he becomes an immortal artist.This immorality deals
with his voice as a human and poet that will never die and identify with the natural things
that is dead for him.To reach eternity he needs his intellectual and the natural things has
no intellect.So, he says that he should not refer or form his body from the natural things.

Stanza 4: (the classical lines-refers to the chassic)

He ends the poem with an eternal voice from the past addressing every ladies and
lords in B.He says that he will never refer to the natural things and form his body from it
since he wants to reach eternity and this needs intellectual that the natural things do not
have. Instead, he will form himself from the old ancient Grecian so that his voice will be
louder and immortal. He wants the Grecian goldsmiths him to transform into something
that is made out of gold. He wants to be an object that is cherished by generations to
come, because he thinks that is the only way his soul will live forever.

Important Aspects:

1-The concept of What is past, or passing, or to come:
For him these three aspects should be in any piece of art, show what is past to come.The
interest in reading past and gain knowledge from it, passing by time and keep moving like
a stream of water with the man live. Therefor, this stream of knowledge will be the only
power the man have in his oldness. As a result, people will be around him since he has
some things to tell about the past and give them knowledge. He warns you from losing
your life till no one will be around you.He actually asks will you allow ignorance and
materialism control you??.
It is one of the most important aspect that he emphasizes and also shows it in his
poems. In related to this poem, he refers to the Grecians poets to clarify that his message
is not only for the Irish, it is a universal one.He wants both the Irish and the Greece be
interested in his poem.To use this aspect, which is add universality to the literary work,
the poet should be well educated and travel through different places and ages not limit
himself on one country and time.


It symbolizes his in symbolism as diamond that gives various beautiful colors.
Symbolism gives many meanings since each reader understands the symbol from his own
way of describing it.
2- Gyre:
It is one of his main symbols that he always use.In the poem, it symbolizes the
knowledge movement as the gyre movement downward and upward, starting from the
heart, which is the center of the body, and than the mind.

Divided into four eight-line stanzas, "Sailing to Byzantium" takes on a sort of formal
regularity. Its actually written in ottava rima. See, ottava rima traditionally contains the
following rhyme scheme: ABABABCC. Yeats doesnt play this game. He starts out with
rhymes that seem to be following the traditional scheme, but then he introduces these
weird, dissonant half-rhymes instead of full rhymes. echo rhyme farpration acoording to
the changes in the poem. It is well organized poem in which each stanza ends with couplet
that gives the main idea of the stanza.This beatiful organization suggests the beauty of
B.The poem is psycho-analytic reading shows the link between the text, its time and the

Razan AL-Telihy