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Sailing to Byzantium

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This poem by Yeats is a continuation from his poem ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ in the previous collection. Byzantium, like Sailing to Byzantium deals with the problems posed by advancing age. Which marked a serious issue for Yeats and the effect of growing old was a deep issue for age quite evident in his poetry.

The poem I have chosen today deals with Yeats insecurities of growing old.

Yeats found the idea of bodily decay and decrepitude intolerable. In this poem he outlines a means of escape from this, he wishes to evade reality and travel in imagination to an ideal place where he will be exempt from decay or death a civilisation in which he can spend his eternity as a work of art. This poem deals with Yeats search for a happier future and one which doesn’t deal with the horrifying effects of death and decay.

Like all of Yeats poems, it possess a lot of metaphor’s and annotations I will discuss these and how they contribute to the poem and contribute to Yeats’s feelings of the effect of the onset of old age.

For my analysis of the poem today it possess a lot of metaphoric meaning, similar to Yeats’s style of writing

The title of the previous poem ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ expresses Yeats’s idea of a voyage to perfection. In this case the voyage is to a country of the mind, firmly situated in an ideal past. In this poem Byzantium it is as if he has reached his destination. The ancient city of Byzantium was one of glories of civilisation, a famous centre of religion, art and architecture. Yeats wrote that if he could be given a month to live in an ancient place, he would chose to spend it in Byzantium.

”Those dying generations’ refers to the abundant life Yeats depicts the ‘fish, flesh and fould’ is doomed to death and deacy’.

He is quite cynical in both poems in regard to his outlook at life; this is partially due to his disgust with his own old age

Sailing to Byzantium-”whatever is begotten, born and dies”.

Byzantium- “Where blood begotten spirits come

And all complexities of fury leave […]

An agony of flame that cannot singe a sleeve”

Yeats’s only conclusion to this dark sinister topic is “Break bitter furies of complexity Those images that yet Fresh images beget That dolphin-torn, that gong-tormented sea”

The old man in a decaying body can break free from the limitations of bodily life by letting his soul assert itself.

In other words Yeats uses his mind and his spirituality to drift off as a mechanism to break free from the harness of old age.

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