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"An Irish Airman Forsees His Death"

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Introduction

"An Irish Airman Forsees His Death" I know that I shall meet my fate Somewhere among the clouds above; Those that I fight I do not hate, Those that I guard I do not love; My country is Kiltartan Cross, My countrymen Kiltartan's poor, No likely end could bring them loss Or leave them happier than before. Nor law, nor duty bade me fight, Nor public men, nor cheering crouds, A lonely impulse of delight Drove to this tumult in the clouds; I balanced all, brought all to mind, The years to come seemed waste of breath, A waste of breath the years behind In balance with this life, this death. *~*William Butler Yeats*~* Line by Line Analysis Background on the situation: Since Ireland was considered a part of The British Commonwealth, the Irish were expected to act for the good of the Mother Land. That also meant dying for the Mother Land. The Irish had no quarrel with anyone except their own rulers. I know that I shall meet my fate The pilot in the poem knows that he will eventually die Somewhere among the clouds above; While flying through the air that he loves. Those that I guard I do not love; While the Irish are on the side of England, they do not care for the English, but they must protect and work with them. ...read more.

Middle

Yeats is disheartened about the romantic, naive dreams of the pilot, as well as admiring of the pilot's courage. He realizes the tragedy of Ireland loosing youth with such intense feelings, but understands that this sacrifice is for the good of the country, which creates the "balance" between life and death. Poetic Device Rhyming Structure The poem uses a very simple rhyme structure, with every other line rhyming. The simplistic rhyme pattern is used to accentuate the simple view of life that the pilot has, and the simple wishes he has. This simple structure does not get in the way of the meaning of the poem, and lets the reader see clearly what Yeats intends. Imagery In this poem, important images occur more than once. One such images is "clouds." It places emphasis on the fact that everything the pilot is living for is in the air. Ironically, his entire life is about the sky, but he will die because of his flying. The phrase "tumult in the clouds" shows the confusion within the pilot over his role. He is unsure of what to do with the war, and unsure of what to do with himself. He realized that everything was "in balance", and he was going to die for his country, and this was what balanced the death. ...read more.

Conclusion

Again, for Yeats to emphasize this would defeat the purpose of the poem. Yeats celebrates the humanity and individuality of the person without the artificial concept of honor or other people's approval. With the line, "I balanced all, brought all to mind," Yeats begins to tell the reader what Major Gregory has to tell us about life and death. But let us linger at this line a moment. In it, Yeats is not merely saying that Major Gregory saw his life pass before his eyes. He balanced ALL, brought ALL to mind. Important news is at hand! Indeed! It is a waste of time and energy to live in the past, as well as to live always for what might be (the future). In reality, and especially at that moment before death, all that matters is the present. Perhaps that moment before death is the only moment when one can truly realize and wholeheartedly believe that. For it is exceptionally difficult to look at one's own life without hoping it will be better in the future or thinking about "how nice it was when . . ." Indeed, I don't believe that one should live wholly in the present. Both the knowledge of the past and the extrapolation to future events are extremely important guides through life. But what Yeats is trying to convey, is that any moment may be your last, so live it to it's fullest. Live like you mean it! ...read more.

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