Comparison and Contrast between “Song of Myself” and “Sailing to Byzantium”

The poems, “Song of Myself” by Walt Whiteman and “Sailing to Byzantium” by W.B. Yeats compare and contrast in several ways. The authors designed their works in such a way that they addressed important aspects that affected their societies. Through their pure thoughts as expressed in the poems, we deduct the following similarities and contrasts in their work.

Both of these poems address the theme of imperfection in society. In “Sailing to Byzantium,” the persona indicates that the young people neglect the old people in his society because they are useless: “An aged man is but a paltry thing” (243). This is an imperfection in society. Similarly, “Song of Myself” describes a society with an imperfect democracy. The persona split his identity into three identities: Whiteman, “Me”, and “Myself.” Each identity sought to fulfill its desires, but in the end, they contradicted themselves (130). Whiteman relates this to democracy; a system whereby everyone tries to satisfy their own needs, but end up contradicting, hence, creating imperfections.

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These poems contrast such that while the persona in “Sailing in Byzantium” tries to attain something higher than his sensual or physical form, the persona in “Song of Myself” talks about himself as the subject in a physical world. Yeats is renouncing the grasp of the world around him: “Consume my heart away; sick with desire,” (243) while Whiteman seems to cling on his physical self: “I know I am deathless” (127).

In conclusion, both Yeats and Whiteman addressed the theme of imperfection in the society. On the contrary, while Yeats seemed to give up on his physical form, Whiteman seemed to stick to his physical self.


Works Cited

Turlington, Anita et al. “Compact Anthology of World Literature II.” Galileo, University System of Georgia,