Sailing to Byzantium
William Butler 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 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.
My idea as an accompaniment to my summer riding this year is to photocopy random poems from my Immortal Poems of the English Language anthology received from Mom back in 1984 (I can’t believe this edition is still in print, same cover and all).
With a poem taped to my handlebars to keep me company, my aim is to spend time reading and reflecting while cycling the seacoast. As a kid I loved reading poetry, memorizing favorite ones. As an adult I find it difficult to make space for poetry, so why not carve out time while doing something equally rewarding. Or in our modern idiom: kill two birds with one stone, as it were.
So a couple days ago I cracked the volume to Yeats and thumbed to the intriguing title Sailing to Byzantium which starts “That is no country for old men.” Perfect for my first pedal of the season!Continue reading “2010 Inaugural Ride”