Poems of W.B. Yeats: The Tower

Sailing to Byzantium: William Butler Yeats

1. Why has the poet sailed to Byzantium/Constantinople/Istanbul?

2. Why does he feel that he no longer fits in to his home country?

3. What does he mean by being “fastened to a dying animal?”

4. Why is there solace to be had in “monuments of unageing intellect?”

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The poem traces the speaker’s movement from youth to age, and the corresponding geographical move from Ireland, a country just being born as Yeats wrote, to Byzantium. Yeats felt that he no longer belonged in Ireland, as the young or the young in brutality, were caught up in what he calls “sensual music.” This is the allure of murder in the name of republicanism, which disgusted Yeats.

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