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Analysis of Sailing to Byzantium

             Darkness spreads over Middle Earth like a plague. The free peoples of the land have but one way to escape the evil that is driven to consume them. They must sail west, over the Sea, into the Havens. As this example from The Lord of the Rings illustrates, the option to sail to the West by the people of Middle Earth, namely the Elves, is what allows them to live forever. The Elves migrate west to gain a peaceful and immortal existence. William Butler Yeats speaks of a similar relocation to a place where he can live forever in his poem "Sailing to Byzantium". In this work Yeats uses various literary techniques to express his desire to be freed from his failing and imperfect human form.
             The title "Sailing to Byzantium" refers to the imaginary journey the speaker longs to take to escape the juvenile and unappreciative inhabitants which populate the country he currently resides in. William Butler Yeats, himself, is most likely the speaker. The poem is written in iambic pentameter and has a rhyme scheme of AB-AB-AB-CC, consistent through each stanza. Four stanzas, of eight lines each, comprise this poem. The first and second stanzas describe the country Yeats lives in before Byzantium and his deteriorating physical health. In the third stanza Yeats requests that his soul be removed from his body so his intelligence can live on. The fourth stanza is a description of what he will do once he is immortal.
             Yeats lives in a place "that is no country for old men". His country is for the young who only care about themselves. To emphasize the greatness of the gap that lies between the aged and those in the springtime of life, he employs juxtaposition, contrasting old and young in the first line of the poem. In further describing his country, he alludes to the fertility of youth in his mentioning of "The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas". The young people of this nation disregard the old, many of whom have great amounts of wisdom.

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