How does the speaker seek to rejuvenate himself through art in "Sailing to Byzantium" by William Butler Yeats?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The speaker in this poem by W.B. Yeats is, we may infer from the opening line, an old man, concerned that, in his old age, he has become "but a paltry thing." He feels that to be old is to be little more than a "tattered coat upon a stick, unless / Soul clap its hands and sing"—that is, the soul of a person must be stimulated in order to keep that person spiritually alive. It is in pursuit of this goal that the speaker has embarked upon a journey to Byzantium, that "holy city."

Rejuvenation, as such, is not the speaker's goal. He does not wish to be young again, but for the "sages standing in God's holy fire" to gather him "into the artifice of eternity." He speaks of leaving his body and becoming, instead of something shaped like a "natural" creation, something "of hammered gold and gold enamelling," which could then exist as it has always existed, singing "of what is past, or passing, or to come." Through...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 506 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Already a member? Log in here.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on