The opposition of art and life and youth and old age in Sailing to Byzantium


Sailing to Byzantium is a poem published through the collection of The Tower in 1928 by one of the very thoughtful, advance and modernist poet William Butler Yeats. This poem is written in 1926 by W.B Yeats at the age of around 50- 60 year. Sailing to Byzantium is a masterpiece of work. The collection The Tower consist only four stanza, yet it is considered the most effective expression by Yeats. Sailing to Byzantium is a poem of opposites of art and life, youth and old, this poem has neither a conventional characters nor any plot yet it is widely admired for its inventive, evocative (उदबोधक, विचारोत्तेजक) imagery and marvelously interwoven phrases. The basic idea of the poem is that the placements of old age against the young. Old age tells the poet to exclude the man from the sensual joys of youth. Sailing to Byzantium expresses poet`s concern of becoming old and being obsolete.

The opposition of art and life and youth and old age in Sailing to Byzantium:

Sailing to Byzantium is a poem of art and life and youth and old age in which there is a clash of opposites, the narrator of this poem is interested in human`s situation which states that we are born, we will live and we will die. The narrator looks for a location, where he may join the historical monuments and live on forever so he selects Byzantium (an ancient Greek city) because of the city`s rich history and many monuments devoted the past that it contains. He believes that by being a monument himself, he will be able to overcome the state of humanity.

The opening line of this poem says that the young are in charge in the narrator`s nation, while the elderly are becoming has been. In the opening sentence it is pretty reasonable to assume that Yeats is talking about Ireland. Ireland was reaching a new era in which the attitude was out with old, in with the new; change is for the young not the old. The nation of youthful love simplicity and naivety is promoted by young people being in one other`s arms. It may also be compared to how the Irish free state is similar to a youthful love and relationship. Everything is still fresh and wonderful and there haven’t been any serious problems yet.

Further, he describes a sequence of natural pictures where birds will be a recurring image throughout the poem, since they symbolize freedom. Those fading generations at their song is a reference to the life cycle of birds in which they hatch, develop, mate and die. In this poem, music and song play an important part; in the second stanza Yeats utilizes them to awaken the spirit. The salmon and mackerel are the subject of the following natural picture, salmon are born in fresh water and then travel to the ocean to mature over the course of many years. They return to their birthplace and deposit their eggs when they are ready to mate. The majority of salmon perish only a few days after depositing their eggs because a female mackerel may lay up to one million eggs at once.

 Here, Yeats refers mackerel- crowded waters. Salmon have limited life spans and their whole existence revolves on preproduction; it is both the beginning and the end of their existence. Yeats argues in line 5 and 6 of the stanza that everything is born must die; this is the essence of life, everything must perish whether you are a fish, a bird or a human.

The opening stanza`s final two lines resembles Yeats subject phrase. He is implying that the old can’t be heard above the love songs of youth and that the elderly are ignored since they aren’t youthful and beautiful. The term sensual music here implies to bird`s sounds which might be interpreted as a mating call. The monuments are images of history that relate to the elderly. The young are dazzled by their hormones, vitality and the desire to be young, thus they ignore the monuments. Yeats is implying that just because someone is elder doesn’t mean they have lost their wits, they are still valuable. Monuments should be respected rather than overlooked.

The second verse begins with Yeats declaring that being an elder man is a trivial matter. The word `tattered coat` (फ़टा हुआ कोट) symbolizes an old man`s skin; it’s worn out, worthless and essentially a rag. An elderly man`s bones serve as the “stick”. This comparison is used to demonstrate humanity`s fragility (कोमलता); in the end we are all just skin and bone.

Further phrase `unless` which establishes that there is a hope, life does not have to stop with infirmity (कमजोर) and the old may become eternal monuments. The narrator here claims that he has been looking for a location with magnificent monuments where he may be a part of history.

Byzantium according to the poet is the only location where art and man are one. It is the only location where history has been accurately represented. Art and monuments in Byzantium are unaffected by anything other than their topic, they are genuine historical representations that are respected.

Therefore, in `Sailing to Byzantium` the poet wants to remembered for all time by his work, the narrator believes that by writing this poem it will become his artifice (युकि्त, fineness’) for all time.

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