“Sailing to Byzantium” is an endlessly interpretable poem, and suggests endlessly fascinating comparisons with other important poems—poems of travel, poems of age, poems of nature, poems featuring birds as symbols. (One of the most interesting is surely Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale,” to which this poem is in many ways a rebuttal: Keats writes of his nightingale, “Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird! / No hungry generations tread thee down”; Yeats, in the first stanza of “Sailing to Byzantium,” refers to “birds in the trees” as “those dying generations.”) It is important to note that the poem is not autobiographical; Yeats did not travel to Byzantium (which was renamed Constantinople in the fourth century A.D., and later renamed Istanbul), but he did argue that, in the sixth century, it offered the ideal environment for the artist. The poem is about an imaginative journey, not an actual one.