Sailing to Byzantium
DVD Video; Copyright © 2007 Lili White
Sound; Color; Length: 12:05 minutes
The Soundtrack: My father tape recorded my mother, her parents, and sister and us kids as we recited poems.
The Visual: simultaneously in the two grand-mother lands at once; a Slovenian town square at sunset, and in Ireland rummaging through the other’s forgotten property.
The Title: taken from Yeats’ poem of an artist’s metaphorical journey as he pursues his own vision of eternal life where immortality, art, and the human spirit may converge.
“Sailing to Byzantium” by William Butler Yeats, 1928
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 un-ageing 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 enameling
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.