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What is the theme and the tone of the poem "Sailing to Byzantium"?

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tnqanh | Student, Undergraduate | Honors

Posted February 6, 2012 at 4:58 AM via web

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What is the theme and the tone of the poem "Sailing to Byzantium"?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 6, 2012 at 7:08 AM (Answer #1)

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William Bulter Yeats' "Sailing to Byzantium" is one of the most beautiful and complex poems in his oeuvre. Its main theme is the triumph of art over death. The suggestion that "this is no country for old men" suggests that old age is, in ordinary life, a misfortune. The old, who in Yeats often figure as beyond the age of love and romance, cannot participate in the romantic lives of action of the young. Therefore, the poet sails to Byzantium, portrayed as a city where art and religion predominate, and aging sages and poets and musicians can make works of everlasting beauty, such as the mechanical nightingale. In contrast with the frail, impermanent, and decaying body is the soul because of its creative abilities and links to the eternal.

The tone is simultaneously elegiac (in its treatment of age) and triumphant (in its praise of art).

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