Treasure Island

William Butler Yeats

(13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939 / County Dublin / Ireland)

Sailing To Byzantium


I
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 unaging intellect.

II
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.

III
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.

IV
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.

Submitted: Wednesday, May 16, 2001

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  • * Sunprincess * (6/9/2014 7:12:00 AM)

    ..........a marvelous masterpiece......I too, would love to be a crown fashioned purely from Byzantium gold... and set with diamonds.... (Report) Reply

  • Donal Byrne (1/21/2013 8:05:00 AM)

    This is poem about the brevity of youth and beauty
    It is written with such insight and majesty that i am overwhelmed.
    We all have lived or are living or soon will this glorious brief spell
    Remember and revel in it to the depths of your soul then
    Let go
    Donal (Report) Reply

  • Michael Harmon (8/10/2009 1:06:00 PM)

    I believe (correctly, I hope) it was Henry Ford, the creator of the production line for auto manufacturing, who, when asked about the color for his automobiles, famously said: 'You can have any color you like, as long as it's black.'

    I believe you can rate this poem any way you like, as long as it's 10. :) (Report) Reply

  • Raj Nandy (4/20/2009 10:06:00 AM)

    THIS HAS BECOME A TIMELESS CLASSICAL PIECE OF POETRY & IS ALSO INCLUDED IN THE CURRICULUM OF ENGLISH LITERATURE OF MANY UNIVERSITIES! PEOPLE DARING TO RATE SUCH A MASTERPIECE DO NO
    DISCRETID TO YEATS - BUT ONLY TO THEMSELVES! ! ! ! !
    -RAJ NANDY (Report) Reply

  • ari anna arena (2/2/2007 2:41:00 AM)

    This could possibly be almost the perfect poem!
    Certainly one of the most beautiful with nearly every poetic nuance and technique
    represented.
    What a guy, that Yeats. Love him. Love this. (Report) Reply

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