Sailing to Byzantium W.B Yeats

  • Created by: Natasha
  • Created on: 07-05-13 20:20

Wider Issues/Themes/Context

Byzantium- Ancient Greek  City, became Constantinople under the Romans and is now Istanbul. 

Byzantine Art- paintings & mosaic: rich in colour, figures are flat/stiff- floating with large eyes, backgrounds are golden. 

In this poem Yeats expresses his concern for ageing and an ageing Ireland which leads him to wish he could travel to Byzantium in order to become part of the mosaic art and be immortal. 

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"That is no country for old men"- Yeats feels he no longer belongs in Ireland. 'old'=ageing.  

"Unaeging intellect"- Society is ignoring art and intellectual achievements due to Ireland losing its romanticism to modernism. Links with 'The Fisherman' ("great art beaten down) he is concerned with old Ireland vs. new Ireland. The fisherman represents a traditional Irish man who appreciates art. 

"Perne in a gyre"- Reborn, new beginning, taking over his soul. Links to The Secong Coming ("widening gyre") or Easter 1916 ("A terrible beauty is born") 

"Greecian goldsmith"; "Gold enammeling"- 'Gold' repeated to suggest he is becoming part of the mosaic, someone is creating him. 

"Past or passing or to come"- Repeat of treble but now he is immortal- suggests he will be remembered in the past/present/future (Immortality) 

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"Salmon falls, the mackerel-crowded seas"- nature is full of energy and vibrancy. 

"Fish, flesh or fowl"- Alliteration used to highlight movement of nature which Yeats no longer has. Links to 'The Wild Swans at Coole' ("Wheeling in great broken wings) Yeats is jealous of the energy of nature which emphasises Yeats ageing. 

"Tattered coat upon a stick"- metaphor- fragile/frail- 'tatter is repeated' to highlight Yeats age and that he has become tired and weak. "paltry"- useless/weak. Links to 'In Memory of Eva Goore...' ("withered old and skeleton gaunt). Modern Ireland & politics is making people weak and withered so Yeats wants to travel to Byzantium where he will become immortal. 'In Memory...' is written later representing time is Yeats' enemy. 

"fastened to a dying animal"- vivid image of his mortality, taking over himself. 

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Verse Form

Rhyme Scheme- Poem written in Ottava Rima (ABABABCC- traditional Italian form of verse dating back to 14th century) Among Schoolchildren also uses Ottava Rima and the two poems can be linked to Yeats longing to be youthful again. 

Iambic Pentameter

Stanza 1-3 has weak and disonant rhymes and stanza 4 has full rhyme to highlight he has become a part of Byzantine art and is now immortal. 

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