Byzantium poem by W.B. Yeats Summary line by line

Byzantium poem by W.B. Yeats Summary line by line

Byzantium poem by W.B. Yeats Summary line by line-Byzantium, crafted by W.B. Yeats, embarks on a poetic odyssey through the mystical realms of the ancient Byzantine Empire. Within its verses, themes of transcendence, spirituality, and the enduring essence of art intertwine.

Byzantium poem by W.B. Yeats Summary line by line

Byzantium poem by W.B. Yeats Summary line by line-Through Yeats' eloquent prose and vivid imagery, readers are transported to a realm where earthly limitations fade, and the soul yearns for the eternal. This poetic expedition invites exploration of Byzantium's enigmatic landscapes and prompts contemplation of timeless truths that transcend mortal boundaries.

Byzantium poem Summary

"The unpurged images of day recede;"

The lingering impressions of the day fade away.

"The Emperor's drunken soldiery are abed;"

The Emperor's soldiers, who are inebriated, are asleep.

"Night resonance recedes, night-walkers' song After great cathedral gong;"

The sounds of the night fade away, including the songs of those who roam at night, following the tolling of a cathedral bell.


"A starlit or a moonlit dome disdains All that man is, All mere complexities, The fury and the mire of human veins."

The vastness of the starlit or moonlit sky seems to reject all human qualities and complexities, such as anger and turmoil.

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"Before me floats an image, man or shade,"

An image appears before the speaker, resembling either a person or a ghostly figure.

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"Shade more than man, more image than a shade;"

This image seems to be more like a shadow or a vague representation than a real person.

"For Hades' bobbin bound in mummy-cloth May unwind the winding path;"


The reference to Hades, the underworld in Greek mythology, suggests that even death can unravel the complexities of life.

"A mouth that has no moisture and no breath Breathless mouths may summon;"

Even though the figure has no breath or life, it can evoke the sensation of breathlessness in others.

"I hail the superhuman; I call it death-in-life and life-in-death."

The speaker acknowledges this figure as something beyond human, representing both death and life simultaneously.

"Miracle, bird or golden handiwork, More miracle than bird or handiwork,"

The image is described as more miraculous than any bird or crafted object.


"Planted on the starlit golden bough, Can like the cocks of Hades crow,"

This miraculous figure, perched on a celestial branch, can crow like the roosters of the underworld.

"Or, by the moon embittered, scorn aloud In glory of changeless metal Common bird or petal And all complexities of mire or blood."

Alternatively, it can scornfully reject common things, such as birds or flowers, in favor of unchanging metal, transcending the complexities of earthly existence.

"At midnight on the Emperor's pavement flit Flames that no faggot feeds, nor steel has lit, Nor storm disturbs, flames begotten of flame,"

Flames flicker on the Emperor's pavement at midnight, not fueled by wood or ignited by steel, but born from other flames.

"Where blood-begotten spirits come And all complexities of fury leave,"

These flames attract spirits born from blood, where the complexities of rage dissipate.

"Dying into a dance, An agony of trance, An agony of flame that cannot singe a sleeve."

The flames transform into a swirling dance, a trance-like state of agony that cannot even burn a sleeve.

"Astraddle on the dolphin's mire and blood, Spirit after spirit! The smithies break the flood,"


Spirits ride astride dolphins through murky waters, as if breaking through a flood.

"The golden smithies of the Emperor! Marbles of the dancing floor Break bitter furies of complexity,"

The golden workshops of the Emperor craft marbles for the dance floor, breaking through the complexities of fury.

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"Those images that yet Fresh images beget, That dolphin-torn, that gong-tormented sea."

These actions create new images, perpetuating the cycle of creation and destruction in the tumultuous sea ridden by dolphins and tormented by gongs.

Byzantium poem Themes

Transcendence and Eternal Life: Within the verses lies an exploration of transcending mortal constraints to attain an existence beyond time. Byzantium symbolizes a realm where individuals can escape the transience of human life and attain a state of eternal being.

Artistic Expression and Creativity: Yeats highlights the transformative potency of art and creativity. In Byzantium, artistic endeavors like crafting golden works and animated marbles are revered, serving as vehicles for the genesis of new realities and images.

Spirituality and Mysticism: Themes of spirituality and mysticism permeate the poem, drawing upon references to Hades and supernatural elements. It hints at the presence of unseen forces and the potential for spiritual enlightenment beyond the earthly realm.

A Sanctuary from Reality: Byzantium emerges as a sanctuary offering respite from the complexities and turmoil of human existence. It represents a refuge where individuals can transcend mundane realities and immerse themselves in eternal beauty and harmony.

The Cycle of Creation and Destruction: Throughout the poem, there is an evocation of a cyclical pattern of creation and destruction. New images arise from the ashes of old ones, mirroring the perpetual cycle of life and death, renewal and decay, suggesting that transformation and flux are inherent aspects of existence.



Byzantium by W.B. Yeats is a profound exploration of transcendence, spirituality, and the enduring power of art. Through vivid imagery and evocative language, Yeats invites readers to journey to the mystical realm of Byzantium, where earthly constraints dissolve, and the soul seeks eternity. This timeless poem encourages introspection and contemplation of the deeper mysteries of existence.


1. What is the significance of Byzantium in the poem?

Byzantium serves as a symbolic realm of transcendence and spiritual enlightenment, where individuals seek refuge from the transience of mortal life.

2. How does Yeats explore the theme of art in "Byzantium"?

Yeats celebrates the transformative power of art, depicting Byzantium as a place where artistic creation transcends earthly limitations and contributes to the eternal realm.

3. What are some key symbols in the poem?

Symbols such as the golden bough, the starlit dome, and the flame represent elements of spiritual enlightenment, eternal beauty, and the transcendence of earthly constraints.

4. What is the significance of the references to Hades and the underworld?

References to Hades and the underworld symbolize the journey of the soul towards enlightenment and immortality, suggesting a deeper exploration of spiritual realms beyond earthly existence.



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