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Poetry: Byzantium

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This is further emphasized with the belittling of mankind in their description as “mere complexities” (7). In the second stanza, the speaker in the poem describes what he sees as “shades” (9-10), refers to figures bound in “mummy-cloth” (11) and “hail[s] the superhuman” (15), all terms that bring to mind the idea of spirituality and separation body from soul giving freedom and perfection to the latter. The reader is made to understand that we are not discussing a dream or anything that can take place in the normal human world, but instead are getting a rare glimpse at the shadows left behind by the spiritual and perfect world beyond humanity.

This other world exists so far distant from ourselves that we must call the things we see there “superhuman” (15) because they can be nothing less. The word “miracle” (17-18) is invoked twice, to underscore the heavenly nature of his speech. By mentioning “Hades” (20), Yeats solidifies the suggestions he’s made so far, indicating this is the realm to which human spirits go once they leave the material plane.

Even more, because the bird, or creature, or whatever, is made of pure “changeless metal” (22), like the essence of the soul, like the essence of art, it is able to sing with “scorn” (21) of the “complexities” (24) of the human body. Further, he mentions in the fourth stanza, that the “blood-begotten spirits come” (28), yet the “complexities” (29) leave. He ends the last stanza with the mention, twice, of “spirits” (34) that come to receive the attention of the smithies.

As can be seen, the word choice alone is sufficient to demonstrate Yeats’ ideas of a perfect spiritual plane to which human spirits are brought on dolphin-back to the ideal, yet difficult to comprehend by human standards and measures the city of Byzantium. Written in the present tense, Yeats makes the complexity of this otherworldly essence clear within the text of the poem by simultaneously presenting and deconstructing images that are brought forward. In the first stanza, he provides the idea that it is necessary for the human world to fade away in order to understand or even view Byzantium: “The unpurged images of day recede; / The Emperors drunken soldiery are abed; / Night resonance recedes, night walkers song” (1-3).

However, because he is speaking to humans as a human, it is impossible for this separation to occur sufficiently enough to adequately portray the image he holds in his mind of what Byzantium is. It is in the second stanza, however, that this concept becomes clear as his author explains “Before me floats an image, man or shade, / Shade more than man, more image than a shade; ” (9-10).

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preview essay on Poetry: Byzantium
  • Pages: 6 (1500 words)
  • Document Type: Essay
  • Subject: Unsorted
  • Level: Masters
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