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Sailing to Byzantium

Sailing to Byzantium

by

William Butler Yeats

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Analysis: Calling Card

It’s All About the Spirals

If you’ve read "The Second Coming," you know that Yeats is a big fan of gyres. A gyre is a vortex of sorts – like a whirlpool or a hurricane or anything else that moves in spirals. ("Gyre" rhymes with "fire," by the way.) Like "The Second Coming," this poem gravitates towards images of spinning. Sure, it also uses words that no one ever uses (EVER!) in ordinary English, but that’s just part of the fun. Because Yeats is something of a master when it comes to poetry, his content mirrors his images. He talks a lot about gyres and spinning, but he also loops the images that he uses in the poem: there are birds in stanza 1 and birds in stanza 4. Not bad, eh?

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