Sailing to Byzantium

(by W. B. Yeats)

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 unageing intellect. 

II 

An aged man is but a paltry thing, 

A tattered coat upon a stick, unless 

Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing 

For every tatter in its mortal dress, 

Nor is there singing school but studying 

Monuments of its own magnificence; 

And therefore I have sailed the seas and come 

To the holy city of Byzantium. 

III 

O sages standing in God’s holy fire 

As in the gold mosaic of a wall, 

Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre, 

And be the singing-masters of my soul. 

Consume my heart away; sick with desire 

And fastened to a dying animal 

It knows not what it is; and gather me 

Into the artifice of eternity. 

IV 

Once out of nature I shall never take 

My bodily form from any natural thing, 

But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make 

Of hammered gold and gold enamelling 

To keep a drowsy Emperor awake; 

Or set upon a golden bough to sing 

To lords and ladies of Byzantium 

Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

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