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.
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.
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.
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 enameling, 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. William Butler Yeats 1927
A short personal reflection- On Introducing W. B. Yeats
In my ongoing search for understanding myself and the world, ” I had not taken up these things willfully, nor through a love of strangeness… But because of the unaccountable things happened in my childhood, and because of my ungovernable craving” for an awareness of hidden mysteries, spiritual realities and secret inner worlds not taught by schools, or generally accepted by polite society….
Knowing that Yeats would enthusiastically approve, I would like to take a few moments to welcome and befriend any readers who are metaphysical searchers; all mystical poets; those of you who possess the gracious gift of imagination or whose thirst for justice makes them reach within and beyond themselves…
William Butler Yeats was a persistent lifelong seeker after truth; but it was an unsettling search that stirred his soul- it challenged him and his readers to the core of their realities because his sources for life’s truth and understanding were outside the norm, and he had only the security of his soul’s quest to sustain him.
Yeat’s greatest sources of inspiration were found in the esoteric Western tradition, usually hidden behind Jewish and Christian orthodoxy. As a leading member of the Theosophical Society and a prominent member of the highly ritualistic, magical Order of the Golden Dawn, he became well versed in secret teachings of the Kabbalah, the Tarot, Alchemy and Astrology. Only later in life, did his studies take him into the safer realms of mythology, fairy tales, philosophy and finally, poetry.
He sought to embrace mystery and become reverent and familiar with it;
to correspond with the eternities, and speak freely with the soul and leave the ego behind. He sought out his earnest answers in a way that risks much disapproval, yet his restless heart, and dynamic spirit pressed on…. And we have his writings as our legacy, our guide for our own soul’s journey.
In our lives, there is a similar demand for truth and inspiration, and like Yeats, each of us contains deep questions. We, too, are curious, seeking, risking and searching for a sense of meaning and purpose that will guide our decisions, satisfy our questions and fill up our empty places.
Sometimes our seeking brings us joy, and sometimes concern;
It is then, in either celebration or commiseration, we look to our sisters and brothers for their stories, their poems, their prayers and can reap the rich results of their wisdom- which, its its gracious twists and turns, will assist us in searching for our own answers…
For the sincere and heartfelt search for the spiritual and personal, the ethical and the just, comes to us from searching… And from listening… through the years and experiences of our lives, and it finds its best expression when it comes from the heartfelt sharing among friends or within a spiritually based community….