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The poem Sailing to Byzantium by W.B. Yeats is written in 'Ottava Rima'. It has four stanzas, each made up of eight ten-syllable lines. I think the choice of this metrical scheme is a thematically oriented choice for Yeats. 'Ottava Rima' is a verse form that is Italian in origin and dates back to the heroic age and also has associations with Renaissance. The Renaissance spirit of a recovery of the classical antiquity is at the core of Yeats's poem, which depicts an old poet's journey from the youthfully dizzy Ireland to the transcendental land of classical art and architecture--the mystical world of Byzantium. The basic prosodic structure is Iambic pentameter in 'Ottava Rima' and the lilt of the Iambic rhythm perfectly captures the mood of the transcendental and heavenly journey.
The rhyme-scheme is like a quatrain with alternate lines rhyming in the first 6 lines of all the four stanzas with a couplet to end with. But there are different kinds of rhymes; a lot of imperfect rhymes, half-rhymes, partial rhyme. The rhyme-varieties are uneven and that may well point to the central irony, the underlying difficulty, if not the impossibility of the transcendental process where eternity as in the golden bird has to be an artifice.
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