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Sailing to Byzantium

Sailing to Byzantium

by William Butler Yeats

Transformation Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies. (5-6)

Nature changes all the time. It’s just the way things are: you’re born, you live for a while, and then you die. Got it? Notice, though, that we’re absolutely no different than all the other animals in the world. You and the slug: exactly the same. It’s not a very comforting thought, is it? That’s what our speaker thinks, too.

Quote #2

birds in the trees
– Those dying generations – at their song, (2-3)

Death looms as the one transformation that invariably awaits all living forms. For the speaker, at least, the creepy thing is that most creatures in nature remain blissfully unaware of their own mortality. Birds keep singing, regardless of whether they’re about to die or not.

Quote #3

Consume my heart away; (21)

The sort of transformation our speaker’s after isn’t necessarily a natural one. Turning to spiritual revelation as a type of change that can be as complete as death or birth itself, the speaker begs to have his heart re-crafted. This passage closely echoes tenets of most major religions, which often articulate the need to surrender to a divine being.

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