Sailing to Byzantium
The poem, "Sailing to Byzantium" by William Butler Yeats, is an in depth look at the journeys of one man seeking to escape the idle and uneducated society of Europe. Yeats pursues a society of which sensual and artistic domains reign. The goal of the author is to become a part of Byzantine civilization and to be forever immortalized in the artwork presented in gold on the walls of the Byzantine churches. Immersion into a different culture and lifestyle is the only way to truly experience and fully understand the ways of this other culture. By surrounding oneself in an unknown environment, one develops great character and becomes less ignorant to differences in others. People tend to become quite unenlightened
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Older men are insignificant unless every thread on his tattered body is rejoicing and singing unto the world. There is no need to have schools instructing in the art of singing; the study of the magnificent cenotaphs is music in its own. The author sees Byzantium as a place of wondrous beauty and mysticism. "And therefore I have sailed the seas and come to the holy city of Byzantium." The author has left his home to journey to Byzantium. He hopes to find a change from the monotony of European society. Europe at that time was and to an extent still is a place of rigid conformity composed of a strict caste system. The author escapes this environment in the holy city of Byzantium. In the third stanza the author is beckoning the wise old men portrayed in gold mosaic on the walls of Byzantine churches. He asks that these sages emerge from the walls in a spiraling motion and feed his soul full of song and praise. "Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre, and be the singing-masters of my soul." The author requests to be versed in the mystery of Byzantine ways. He explains how his heart yearns for the teachings of the masters. The author wants to be swept away in to the intrigue of eternity.
The fourth stanza discusses the author's desire to become an engraving in gold on a Byzantine wall. "Once out of nature I shall never take my bodily form from any natural thing, but such a form as Grecian goldsmiths