How does William Yeats present the theme of ageing in ‘’Sailing to Byzantium’’.
"Sailing to Byzantium" begins as a meditation on the things which age leaves behind: bodily pleasure, sex, and regeneration. As death approaches, the speaker turns towards the possibility of rebirth as a potential solution for the trauma of watching his own body deteriorate. The line between spiritual and physical rebirth becomes blurred as the speaker imagines placing his soul into an art object, something that can outlast all mortal creatures. Sailing to Byzantium portrays the agony of old age and the painstaking implorations and hopes the speaker has of leaving some form of permanence as a monument to his soul. This poem depicts a metaphorical journey of leaving the country of the young that the speaker can no longer relate to and traveling to Byzantium, a world of artistic magnificence and permanence. The poem portrays themes of aging and death, exploring the speakers desires to leave a mark on the world. This depressing theme creates an ironic contrast and a sad parallelism against the poetic form of ottava rima that it is written in. Throughout the poem, use of symbolism is central, first emerging in the title of the poem and continuing to be implemented through the prominent motifs of music and birds. The speaker also uses the image of a scarecrow-like figure to illustrate the absurdity of a tattered, useless old man and thus emphasize his consuming fear of the aging process.
The underlying theme of Sailing to Byzantium is the speaker's intense dread of age and death, leading to a fascination with the artificial which manifests itself in his desire to leave behind a timeless monument. The poem begins with painting a picture of nature in all its youthful glory with "the young" people of his country encircled "in one another's arms", "birds in the trees"; "the salmon" falling alongside the "the mackerel-crowded seas". This pretty picture of "fish, flesh" and "fowl"...
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