“You think when you wake up in the mornin yesterday don’t count. But yesterday is all that does count. What else is there? Your life is made out of the days it’s made out of. Nothin else.”
― Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men
At lunch today (it’s amazing how not-enjoyable no-carbohydrate food gets after a few months) I took a break and hit the ‘web. I stumbled across a well-known Yeats poem – Sailing to Byzantium – which gave the title to a Cormac McCarthy novel and eponymous film. I read the poem a few times and copied key lines into my commonplace book – it spoke to me.
There is plenty of commentary on this famous poem… you can do a google search if you like. But it’s pretty simple and terribly easy to understand – especially for someone past a certain age.
So here it is, without any further ado from me.
Sailing to Byzantium
BY 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 unageing 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 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.