In case you didn’t know, today is World Poetry Day, an international day founded in 1999 by UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. What’s the point? Poetry of course! World Poetry Day exists to celebrate and promote the publishing, reading, writing and teaching of poetry across the globe.
If you’d like to know more, and see a few of the poetry community’s favorite pieces, pop on over to One Stop Poetry for a look. If you get a chance, share some of your own favorites as well – the more the merrier, as they say.
To that same end, for the next five days, I’ll be celebrating World Poetry Day by stretching it out over a week, each day sharing one of my favorite poems from different poets. Hope you like my choices – want to share your own? Comment back! I’d love to hear them.
To kick things off today, I open with William Butler Yeats’s “Sailing to Byzantium:”
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 unaging 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.
~William Butler Yeats, 1926