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Sailing to Byzantium

Sailing to Byzantium


by William Butler Yeats

Sailing to Byzantium Man and the Natural World Quotes

How we cite our quotes: line

Quote #1

The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
– Those dying generations – at their song, (1-3)

Juxtaposing happy, joyful images of young couples in love and birds singing with an insistent reminder of death, Yeats underscores the fragility of life itself.

Quote #2

The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies. (4-6)

Life and all of its pleasures tend to occupy the minds of most living things. It’s not often that we think of philosophical or even spiritual questions that don’t directly affect our daily lives. At least, that’s the contention of our speaker here.

Quote #3

Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect. (7-8)

The "sensual music" of life becomes all-consuming. While listening to music, it’s easy to get entranced. Similarly, while caught up in the business of living, it’s all too easy to forget about existential questions.

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