Friday, 29 August 2014

Sailing to Byzantium

I have worried a lot lately about the slow ebb of time and decay, that this life is washing away and I'm leaving less than a trace in that wake. Yeats however, just understood time, and the organic decay evident in nature, he exulted in the inorganic- the unchanging, the beautiful. The frame of mind he found himself in when he wrote Sailing to Byzantium was wroth against the frailties of our mortal ties, it was spiritual and in that spirit desired artifice for living on and outside of time.

Maybe Yeats was correct in his thinking but as a young man I still cling to the natural, my flesh and blood. I still live in this country of young men, I still ache for glories and passions yet to live. Some part of me hopes I don't lose these urges - I fight for the dying animal, not for the perfection of cold design.

Anyway here is his masterpiece make up your own minds :)

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 unageing intellect.

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.

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.

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.

W. B. Yeats, 1865 - 1939

Thanks for reading,



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