Growing old just isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. "Sailing to Byzantium" begins as a meditation on the things which age leaves behind: bodily pleasure, sex, and regeneration. As death approaches, the speaker turns towards the possibility of rebirth as a potential solution for the trauma of watching his own body deteriorate. The line between spiritual and physical rebirth becomes blurred as the speaker imagines placing his soul into an art object, something that can outlast all mortal creatures.
Because he travels to Byzantium, the speaker finds a way to assert the value of the wisdom and strength that he’s accumulated over the years of his life.
"Sailing to Byzantium" isn’t so much a poem about the consequences of aging; it’s a critique of life itself.