Naru's Happy Travel
DOI : http://dx.doi.org/10.14354/yjk.2006.26.79
늙음, 욕망, 그리고 상상력 ?『탑』의 세 작품을 중심으로
전남대
Old Age, Desire, and Imagination: Reading Three Poems in The Tower
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Abstract
The Tower, published in 1928, is Yeats's finest single volume of poetry, and it might also be the finest single book of poems published in the twentieth century (O'Donnell 89). Many poems of the volume confront the problems of growing old. This paper attempts to read three poems selected from The Tower--"Sailing to Byzantium," "The Tower," and "Among School Children"--in terms of their representations of old age and its relation to desire and the imagination.
In "Sailing to Byzantium," the poet begins by declaring that Ireland is "no country for old men." He complains that here all are "caught in that sensual music" and "neglect monuments of unageing intellect." "The Tower" also begins with the poet's confused question: "What shall I do with this absurdity . . . this caricature, decrepit age?" He complains about his old age because it makes his body "a sort of battered kettle at the heel," and that body can deride his imagination and its work. The poet's complaint or anxiety about old age in these poems comes from the fact that his old age and bodily decrepitude make it hard to satisfy his desire. In "Sailing to Byzantium," lack of satisfaction makes him unhappy in Ireland and wish to leave. Also in "The Tower," unsatisfied desire makes his heart "troubled," and so he is even tempted to give up poetry and choose philosophy.
However, ironically enough, unsatisfied desire makes his imagination stronger than ever. Now, in spite of his bodily decrepitude, his imagination enables him to travel to the "holy city" of Byzantium, and there pray to the sages there that he may be changed into a golden bird, "an artifice of eternity." In "The Tower," the poet sends his imagination forth and calls "images and memories" to ask questions of them. In the process of calling images and asking questions, the poet restores his belief in the power of the imagination, and, because of this belief, he can leave his "pride" and "faith" as poet to the "young upstanding men" of Ireland.
"Among School Children" confronts the problem of physical ageing a little differently. The poem shows the poet walking through the schoolroom and dreaming of "a Ledaean body" (Maud Gonne). His imagining her as a child and then thinking of "her present image" leads to the meditation not only on the general human fate of ageing but also on the images which "break hearts" because they do not touch the reality of life. Not only the passage of time but also the false images make human life exhausted and unhappy. To solve the problem, the poet's imagination creates two images of unified being: the "blossoming" tree and the "dancing" body. Where life is blossoming or dancing, the poet says, "The body is not bruised to pleasure soul." What he is trying to say is that life is an ongoing process, and so we must accept it as it really is.

 



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