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Sailing to Byzantium

Sailing to Byzantium

by William Butler Yeats

Regeneration

Symbol Analysis

In this poem, regeneration takes on huge spiritual overtones. The artwork and the work of human life become one and the same as our speaker tries to figure out how to break through the boundaries of human experience. What is the soul capable of? Exactly how much of the artist’s intention is reflected in the work he/she creates? Yeats is using some specialized symbols here, but the general concepts he works with are pretty commonplace. After all, nearly every superhero we’ve ever read about goes through some sort of emotional transformation. Chances are that they change their appearances, as well. That’s all our speaker is asking for. Asking to become superhuman isn’t that big of a request, is it?

  • Lines 20-23: These lines are the continuation of an apostrophe: the speaker addresses the sages of Byzantium, asking them to "consume" him and "gather [him] into the artifice of eternity." The first step towards regeneration, after all, is giving up what you’ve already got.
  • Lines 24-25: There aren’t really many technical terms we can throw at you for these lines. It’s useful to note, though, that here the speaker feels like he can choose the bodily form that his soul will take. Is he speaking metaphorically here, or does he really want to become a work of art? We’ll leave that up to you!

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