73. Byzantium

Yeats wrote two poems about İstanbul that have become classics in the Western literary canon: “Sailing to Byzantium” and the later “Byzantium.” The first poem uses an imagined journey to Byzantium to meditate on mortality, spirituality and artistic legacy, among other themes. The poet escapes a country of youth neglecting the “monuments of unageing intellect” around them and travels to Byzantium, seeking some form of eternal paradise.

The second, lesser-known poem, “Byzantium,” is a nighttime portrait of the city populated by classical Greek symbols — the figure of Hades, the golden bough, dolphins carrying people to the underworld. While “Sailing to Byzantium” invokes a journey, the second poem paints a picture that is complex and dizzying. / Today’s Zaman

Sailing to Byzantium
That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
–Those dying generations–at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unaging intellect.

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