Yeats' Poem "Sailing to Byzantium" Poem Review

Yeats' Poem "Sailing to Byzantium"
Analyzes William Butler Yeats' poem "Sailing to Byzantium" from a spiritual and mythological perspective.
# 149265 | 1,325 words | 4 sources | MLA | 2011 | US
Published on Dec 03, 2011 in Literature (Poetry) , Literature (European (other))

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This paper explains that William Butler Yeats, who lived and wrote during the latter part of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, was not as English as much as he was Irish in that his poems capture the spirit of Ireland, the richness of the folklore and the old wives tales. Next, the author relates that the magical, spiritual, mythological city of Byzantium in the poem "Sailing to Byzantium" underscores Yeats' identification as one of the original English modernists. The paper concludes that, on close analysis of "Sailing to Byzantium", Yeats presents the concept of Byzantine as a symbol of the need to incorporate unity and spiritualism into one's everyday life.

From the Paper:

"Yeats is an expert at combining concepts, which are foreign to one another, in a form of analogy which enlivens his poetry. Such analogies do more than enliven the concept; they bring mental images to the mind of the reader. Many lines in "Sailing to Byzantium" illustrate Yeats' ability to tie together seemingly unrelated objects and concepts to depart deep spiritual meaning. Through closer analysis we can glean his meaning. From the fire comes knowledge through which the immortality which Yeats so desperately seeks can be obtained. The fire in "Sailing to Byzantium" is thus holy and the knowledge which it provides is acknowledged by Yeats to be the spiritual guide for his soul. Just like a maestro guides his orchestra, the knowledge of immortality guides Yeats.
"Yeats further imparts a sense of timelessness to his poem with the symbolism of the song of the bird. Just as the singing bird is ever-present in Byzantium, so too does Yeats hope to be ever-present in his reader's mind, singing timelessly into perpetuity. While Yeats hopes to armor his poetry to survive the ravages of time, however, he recognizes that life is fleeting. He includes many symbols to impart this concept to his readers."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Bemrose, John. ``Yeats filled his days with meetings--and romance''. Maclean's, (1997): Jul 1.
  • Hassan, Ihab. ``Marginal literature at the exploded center: an Okinawan instance''. World Literature Today, (1997): Jan 1.
  • Macbeth, George (editor). Poetry 1900-1965. (1967): Longman/Faber.
  • Yeats, William Butler; Finneran, Richard L. (editor). ``Sailing to Byzantine'' IN The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats. (1996): Sep, Scribner.

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