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ISSN : 1226-4946(Print)
ISSN : 2288-5412(Online)
The Yeats Journal of Korea Vol.35 pp.163-184

Reality and Ideal in the “Byzantium Poems”

Choi Hie Sup


Yeats wrote two poems on Byzantium: one is “Sailing to Byzantium” written in1926 and the other is “Byzantium” written in 1930. The two poems are called theByzantium Poems.
In both poems, the reality and the ideal coexist, as Yeats himself said that“Each age unwinds the thread another age had wound, and it amuses one toremember that before Phidias, and his westward-moving art, Persia fell, and thatwhen full moon came round again, amid eastward-moving thought, and broughtByzantine glory, Rome fell; and that at the outset of our westward-movingRenaissance Byzantium fell; all things dying each other’s life, living each other’sdeath.”
What Yeats said about Byzantium as a symbolic city can be said about Irelandwhere the poet himself lived. That means he depicted the same world in dualperspectives. He said if he were to choose a city where he would live a month, hewould pick up Byzantium a little before Justinian opened St. Sophia and closed theAcademy of Plato. The reason is that religious, aesthetic and practical life were onein the town and at that time.
We can say that what Yeats described in the Byzantium poems is the worldwhere religious, aesthetic and practical life are one and the same.

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