Poems of W.B. Yeats: The Tower

Creating One’s Own Art 12th Grade

In many of William Butler Yeats’s works, he creates a seemingly inescapable gyre or cycle that history and human lives follow. In The Second Coming, Yeats examines the cycle of history in which every two thousand years, a new messiah arrives. In An Irish Airman Foresees His Death, Yeats explores the gyre in which man is caught where one’s current state dies and becomes anew. In a broader sense, the poem emphasizes the inevitability of death. However, neither of these two poems recognize the possibility of escape from the gyre. Yet, in his poem Sailing to Byzantium, Yeats recognizes a way out of the aforementioned gyre. Through the separation of the soul from the physical body, one can transcend time. Yeats uses diction surrounding aging and the motifs of birds and the soul to show the insignificance of mortal life, revealing the desire for the soul to endure beyond mortal life through art.

In Sailing to Byzantium, Yeats uses the motif of birds to criticize man’s tendency to focus on the moment and forget the importance of the soul, a tendency which particularly plagues the young. He describes a world with “The young in one another’s arms, birds in the trees.” This description shows the sexual nature of the “young in one another...

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