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Life of the Soul Revealed in Sailing to Byzantium and Shadows

Life of the Soul Revealed in Sailing to Byzantium and Shadows

The view of death from an aged individual can be one of acceptance of his life’s end or one of mystified wonder over the immortality of the soul. Both William Butler Yeats and David Herbert Lawrence take the latter view in their respective poems, “Sailing to Byzantium” and “Shadows.” By viewing death as a continuation of their soul’s life in a different realm of being, they provide a comforting solution to the fear that death may be the end of their existence. In W.B. Yeats’ “Sailing to Byzantium” and D.H. Lawrence’s “Shadows,” death is addressed from the viewpoint of one preparing for its eminent arrival; Yeats, however, expresses the belief that he can live forever when his soul becomes a form of art whereas Lawrence states that death delivers him “to the hands of God to send [him] forth as a new man.”

“Sailing to Byzantium” presents the end of a man’s journey through life in which he yearns to, “once out of nature,” be cast in gold as a work of art. By using the motif of a journey to parallel the end of one’s life, Yeats presents Byzantium as the ultimate destination for his mundane body. He contrasts the “holy city of Byzantium” with the country for the young, a land which he has now departed. In the land of the young, “the aged man is but a paltry thing” who is out of place among those who are “caught in the sensual music.” The knowledge that comes with age, including the respect for things immortal, causes the traveler to leave the place that “neglect[s] monuments of unageing intellect.” The realization that life is ephemeral is a divisor separating those who reside in the land of the “caught” young and those who exhibit free action by traveling…

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Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. 128-132.

Holdberg, Michael. ” ‘Sailing to Byzantium’: A New Source and a New Reading.” English Language Notes VII (1974): 111-116.

Macheice, Louis. “The Ash of Poetry.” The Poetry of W.B. Yeats. London: Oxford University Press, 1941. 139-141.

Olson, Elder. ” ‘Sailing to Byzantium’: Prolegomena to a Poetic of the Lyric.” University Review VIII (1912): 257-269.

Panichas, George A. “Voyage of Oblivion.” Critics on D.H. Lawrence. Ed. W. T. Andrews. Coral Gables: University of Miami Press, 1971. 121-123.

Perloff, Marjorie. “The Rhyme Structure of the Byzantium Poems.” Rhyme and Meaning in the Poetry of Yeats. Mouton

Views of War in Tennyson’s Charge of the Light Brigade and Whitman’s Drum-Taps

Views of War in Tennyson’s Charge of the Light Brigade and Whitman’s Drum-Taps

Even though Walt Whitman and Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote with different styles and ideals, the common theme of war gave them the similar purpose of exposing the destructive nature of battle while remaining inspiring and even optimistic. Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade” reveals a fatal “blunder” that cost the lives of many English soldiers, while asserting that the unquestioning loyalty of the British troops causes tremendous pride. Whitman’s Drum-Taps series of poems, especially “Beat! Beat! Drums!,” documents the tragedies that occurred during the Civil War, yet maintains a feeling of hope that the war will help to cleanse the nation and revitalize it. Despite the outward similarities between “Light Brigade” and Drum-Taps, subtle differences exist between the respective authors’ attitudes towards war and the tones that carry over into the poems. The extreme pride Tennyson felt for England as Britain’s poet laureate swayed his writing, and critics have since attacked the excessive jingoism that seeps into “Light Brigade” (Marshall 135), since he was unable to capture the immense suffering of battle that could only be seen on the front lines, where he never set foot. Conversely, Whitman was able to grasp the darkest of emotions that war generated in his poems because of the prolonged experience he had caring for the wounded and mourning the dead (Golden 106). Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade” and Whitman’s “Beat! Beat! Drums!” appear to be nationalistic poems glorifying war, but while Tennyson paints a heroic picture of valiant soldiers fighting a just war, Whitman employs a mixture of sarcasm and grim reality to portr…

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…Jr. A Tennyson Handbook. New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1963: 110-135.

Shaw, W. David. Alfred Lord Tennyson: the Poet in an Age of Theory. New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1996: 25-35.

Sweet, Timothy. “Whitman’s Drum-Taps and the Rhetoric of War.” Traces of War: Poetry, Photography, and the Crisis of the Union. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990: 11-45.

Tennyson, Alfred Lord. “The Charge of the Light Brigade.” The Norton Anthology: English Literature. New York: W. W. Norton

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