Thursday, 13 June 2013

Day 328: Sailing to Byzantium

Today is inaugural Yeats day (as it is his birthday). Yeats as in William Butler, Nobel Prize winner, poet extraordinaire and a legendary emblem of Irish literature and culture.
In his later years Yeats became obsessed with old age and dying and rallied against it in his poetry. In this famous poem 'Sailing to Byzantium', Yeats longs to be made immortal through art, so as never to die a physical death.
And I think he may just have achieved his wish. His poetry is his golden bird.

Sailing to Byzantium - WB Yeats

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
- Those dying generations - at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

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