Yeats, in the latter years of his life, chose to sail to Byzantium and transform into an entity that has fully grown out of the nature of the society. The sacred city, Byzantium, was the capital of the Byzantium Empire and served as Yeats’ place of paradise and the only place where art and man can become a single body. In contrast, he describes Ireland as a land that provides no sense of glory for the aged and their intellect. In the first stanza, Yeats associates natural images to represent the youth and the sensuality that is present in Ireland. For example, “the birds in the trees” symbolize the freedom, and the “salmon” and “mackerel” are two types of fish that occupy the seas when reproducing (Yeats 937). Nonetheless, Yeats explains that whether it is a “fish, flesh, or fowl” everything that is born must die, because that is the nature of being mortal (Yeats 937). In addition, the last two lines of the first stanza serve as a thesis to the poem, because throughout the poem, similar notions are mentioned about artistic permanence and “sensual music.” Yeats in these lines w...
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...ugh to sing” in permanence (Yeats 938). In Byzantium, the songs he will sing as a golden bird are none other than Yeats’ poetry that will resemble spiritual essence that is free from the sensual world.
In conclusion, after analyzing the motive behind why Yeats’ sailed to Byzantium, it is acceptable to say that Yeats’ was escaping the mortal and ignorant society of Ireland, in which his monuments were not acknowledged. Thus, to quench his desires, he arrived to the holy city of Byzantium where he anticipated on becoming one with his soul and releasing his mortal attributes to provide justice to himself and his art by becoming a revered golden bird.
Yeats, William Butler. “Sailing to Byzantium.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry,
Drama, and Writing. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 11th ed. New York: Longman,
2010. 937-38. Print.
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