Literary Analysis: 'Sailing to Byzantium' Poem

BeneficentNovaculite avatar

Start Quiz

Study Flashcards

28 Questions

What is the sentiment of the speaker towards the 'country for young men'?

Disdainful and critical

What is the significance of the 'sensual music' in the poem?

It is a symbol of the neglect of the old

What does the speaker mean by 'monuments of unageing intellect'?

The old people who are wise and intelligent

What is the speaker's desire in the poem?

To be free from the constraints of the natural world

What is the significance of Byzantium in the poem?

It is a place of spiritual awakening and enlightenment

What is the symbolism of the 'tattered coat upon a stick'?

It is a symbol of the neglect of the old

What is the speaker's attitude towards his own heart?

He is ashamed of its weakness and desire

What is the significance of the 'goldsmiths' in the poem?

They are skilled craftsmen who create intricate objects

What is the poem's structure and rhyme scheme?

It is written in iambic pentameter with an ABABABCC rhyme scheme

What is the overall tone of the poem?

It is nostalgic and melancholic

What is the central theme of Yeats's poem 'Sailing to Byzantium'?

The agony of old age and the quest for eternal life

In which year was the poem 'Sailing to Byzantium' written?


What is the poet's desired destination in the poem?


What is the significance of the 'singing-masters' in the poem?

They are the spiritual guides who can help the poet's soul

What is the poet's ultimate desire in the poem?

To exist in the 'artifice of eternity'

What is the symbol of the artificial and perfect in the poem?

The golden bird

What is the connection between the poem 'Sailing to Byzantium' and Keats's 'Ode to a Nightingale'?

Yeats's poem is a rebuttal to Keats's poem

What is the significance of the 'dying animal' in the poem?

The poet's body

Why is Byzantium significant to the poet?

It offered the ideal environment for the artist

What is the tone of the poem 'Sailing to Byzantium'?

Hopeful and aspirational

What was Yeats's view on the role of fate in history?

It is determined by a higher power.

What influenced Yeats's spiritual and philosophical system?

Mythology, Theosophy, spiritualism, philosophy, and the occult

What did Yeats use to map out the development and reincarnation of the soul?

The image of interlocking gyres

How does the divine interact with humanity in Yeats's poetry?

Through moments of human and divine interaction

What tone permeates Yeats's poems that describe situations of human and divine interaction?

One of historically determined inevitability

What role does the divine play in Yeats's poetry?

It is a symbol of fate and destiny

How does Yeats's system of spirituality view the concept of reincarnation?

It is a part of a complex system that involves interlocking gyres

What is the result of the interaction between the human and divine in Yeats's poetry?

A sense of determination and fate

Study Notes

Poem Structure and Style

  • The poem "Sailing to Byzantium" by W.B. Yeats consists of four eight-line stanzas, metered in iambic pentameter, and rhymed ABABABCC.
  • The poem's style is reminiscent of a very old verse form.

Themes and Imagery

  • The poem explores the theme of old age and the speaker's desire to transcend the natural world and its decay.
  • The speaker sees the natural world as youthful and vibrant, but also primal and neglectful of the old.
  • The poem features imagery of nature (birds singing in trees, fish swimming in waters) to contrast with the speaker's feelings of aging and decay.

Byzantium and the Sages

  • The speaker wants to leave the natural world and travel to Byzantium, where the sages in the city's famous gold mosaics can become his soul's "singing-masters".
  • The speaker hopes the sages will take him away from his bodily form and into an existence outside time, where he can exist in "the artifice of eternity".

The Artificial vs. the Natural

  • Yeats's poem expresses a fascination with the artificial as superior to the natural.
  • The artificial (the golden bird, the beautiful doll) is seen as perfect and unchanging, while the natural (the world, the human baby, the speaker's body) is prone to ugliness and decay.
  • The speaker wants to transform into a golden bird, symbolizing his desire to transcend the natural world and become an artificial, unchanging entity.

Historical Context and Symbolism

  • Byzantium, an ancient city, represents a place of spiritual and artistic greatness.
  • The poem's use of Byzantium and the sages is symbolic of the speaker's desire for spiritual and artistic transcendence.
  • The golden bird and the golden tree are symbols of the artificial and eternal, contrasting with the natural and decaying world.

Comparison to Other Poems

  • "Sailing to Byzantium" can be compared to other poems about travel, age, nature, and birds as symbols.
  • The poem is often seen as a rebuttal to Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale", which celebrates the beauty of nature and the transience of life.

Yeats's Philosophy and Spirituality

  • Yeats was deeply interested in mysticism, mythology, Theosophy, spiritualism, philosophy, and the occult.
  • He developed a complex spiritual and philosophical system that emphasized the role of fate and historical determinism.
  • Yeats believed that history was determined by fate and that fate revealed its plan in moments of human and divine interaction.

Dive into the world of poetry and analyze the themes and imagery in W.B. Yeats' 'Sailing to Byzantium'. Explore the contrast between youth and age, and the speaker's longing for a world of eternal beauty. Identify the poetic devices and symbolism used to convey the speaker's emotions.

Make Your Own Quizzes and Flashcards

Convert your notes into interactive study material.

Get started for free
Use Quizgecko on...