Sailing to Byzantium

Ovilla, Texas Barn

Ovilla, Texas Barn


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.

. . .

William Butler Yeats, “Sailing to Byzantium”

Forgive me.  I am not a trained literary critic, so my comments on texts may not fit mainstream published interpretations.  However, I am a bona fide lover of literature, a lover of the printed and spoken word.  I delight in lingering over language, believing that revelation is always possible.  As I’ve been painting this sign-covered barn, these words from William Butler Yeats have been washing over me in successive waves.  No doubt some of the reason is due to the recent passing of beautiful Maya Angelou.  Incidentally, I did read her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at the opening of yesterday’s Philosophy class.  And yes, I choked on the final stanza, as I always do.  Her words flood me with uncontrollable emotion.

Funny–in years long past, I have wrestled and fretted over this William Butler Yeats text, was required to teach it in senior English, and always felt unable to “get it.”  But now it speaks to me soothingly as I come to peace with my own aging, and feel a serenity when I linger in the presence of unaging monuments erected in days gone by.  This well-preserved barn from Ovilla, Texas, clothed in advertisements by companies–many of  which no longer survive–whispers a presence to me during silent moments as I gaze upon it.  The barn still stands in quiet majesty, though many of the companies advertised exist only in the memories of aging intellects.  Thus, I experience that dual feeling of presence and loss as I look upon this subject.

I have had difficulty finding quality time to work on this painting since the end-of-year procedures at school are taxing my daily hours, leaving little time in late afternoon to paint.  But when I do enter the studio, I feel that I have sailed into the holy city of Byzantium.  The fading northern light of these spring afternoons provides a warmth and comfort to me, and bending over these watercolor compositions leads me into a sublime realm.  The Waxahachie plein air experience begins tomorrow and will run non-stop for a week.  I am anticipating a rich experience of painting in the open air once again.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.


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