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“sailing to Byzantium”: Appreciation of Life and the Struggle Between the Ages

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“Sailing to Byzantium”: Appreciation of Life and the Struggle Between the Ages

In W.B. Yeats, “Sailing to Byzantium” the narrator is an older man looking at his life with detest as the way it appears now. He is holding resent for the way the young get to live their lives and how he lives his now. The narrator is dealing with the issue of being older and his sadness of worth in this life, and who is later able to come to terms and accept his life.

In “Sailing to Byzantium” the poem is broken up into four stanzas, each describing a different part of the voyage and the feeling associate with it. Stanza I is the narrators departure to Byzantium; II the voyage done by boat and landing in Byzantium; III in the holy city of Byzantium and visiting the ancient landmarks; IV the desire of the narrator to become a part of physical aspect of Byzantium.

In first stanza the narrator of the poem describes that the lands of where he is from is not for the older people, there are too many young people frolicking around enjoying their lives, while the older people and sulking and are not take pleasure in their own lives. To him he sees the young people neglecting the knowledge they have around them “Caught in that sensual music all neglect Monuments of unageing intellect.” The place he is taking his voyage to see to be much more enjoyable when the people are more full of life. It seems to the man that everyone within Byzantium is able to escape life through music.

In the second stanza, the man is likely mediating aboard the ship on growing old. (Hochman 211) He feels that as if his body is withering away and that his is much more badly off then any of the young. According to Olsen, in the line “every tatter in this mortal dress” is cause for further argumentation of joy, and the soul is able to rejoice. (216) “The soul of the aged must be strong to seek that which youth neglects. Hence the old must seek Byzantium; that is the county of the old.” (Olsen 216) When they reach Byzantium they are no longer forced to look at the youth of things but are allowed to appreciate the long development in the holy city, which happened long ago. The narrator has landed into the city realizing how magnificent of a place Byzantium really is.

During the third stanza the narrator summons the wise old men who are portrayed thought the golden walls of the Byzantine churches. The narrator asks to be knowledgeable about in the ancient mysterious ways of the Byzantine, and wishes he could learn from their masters.

By stanza four the man now understands his life better. Through Yeats the narrator discusses his desire to become an engraving in the gold on a Byzantine wall. “Once out of nature I shall never take my bodily form from any natural thing, but such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make…” In this line “Out of nature” refers to death. Once one dies they are no longer part of the natural world, they become part of the spiritual world. From Yeats we can see how the man wishes to remain immortal in one of the golden portraits, so all who venture to Byzantium will see him. Goldsmiths made these portraits for the amusement of the Emperor, this was so that the he never become lonely or tired while the goldsmiths hammer new artwork on the wall.

The man in the poem as describe by Yeats has made a beneficial change in his life. He used to hold some what contempt for the younger generation, but was able to from taking a voyage to a far away land have a new found appreciation for his life. He realizes now the importance of the younger generations and the importance of them to learn, especially from the past as the older generation like himself.

In Sailing to Byzantium many literary elements are present. In the poem the unknown protagonist experience the theme of rejection. He feels as if the world does not appreciate him not due to his old age. In the lines "The salmon-falls, the

mackerel crowded seas" as well as the salmon falls is a strong imagery of youth, and the mackerel is being symbolic of a strong and satisfyingly life. Also in the line "Fish, flesh, or fowl", alliteration to used to illustrate that the "F" is emphasizing the inclusion of all animal life. (Gardener & Gonzalvez 96) Also there is a rhyme scheme in the form of ottava rime “rhyme in eights.” The rhymes are slanted and near rhymes. The rhyme scheme is abababcc.

From and except in Elder Olson’s book he explains that the speaker in Yeats poem has been able to transform the negate aspect of age in a positive

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