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"An Irish Airman Foresees His Death" by William Butler Yeats

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"An Irish Airman Foresees His Death" by William Butler Yeats essay

In “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death,” William Butler Yeats’ poem, he focuses on man’s inner nature. He touches on many thoughts that must race through one’s mind at the point when they realize that their death is unavoidable. Main idea of this this poem is death. In this poem, these thoughts include the airman’s believed destination after leaving Earth, his feelings about his enemies and his supporters, and his view of how he has spent his life. By telling the airman’s possible final thoughts, writer shows that there is a great deal more to war than the political controversy between two opposing forces and that it causes men to question everything they have ever known and believed. This sonnet like poem but not a sonnet consists of 16 lines.

At the beginning of the poem, Yeats presents the reader the airman’s first believed inner thought. The airman has concluded that he is going to die. In the words, “I know that I shall meet my fate / Somewhere among the clouds above,” in the beginning speaker declares that he will die fighting among the clouds. Airman seems to have accepted this destiny (lines 1-2). Airman does not talk about fighting it or wishing it away. He knows the realities of the position that he is in and has decided to fully accept the unavoidable outcome. Although one might envision the airman flying his plane into dangerous territory or possibly imprisoned by the enemy, the writer does not tell the reader what is happening to him. This is constant with Yeats’ style of describing the inward versus the outward events in his poems. Knowing what is happening to the airman would probably not enhance or even affect the poem because Yeats wants the reader to know what is taking place inside this man.

In the end of first quatrain the writer talks about Airman’s enemies and supporters. In which, he makes his point clear that he does not hate his enemies, nor he loves his supporters “Those that I fight I do not hate /Those that I guard I do not love;”. The speaker is describing the psychology of a soldier. He’s forced to fight and defend his country, but he’s not up for either one of those tasks. He doesn’t want to kill the enemy because he doesn’t hate them, and he doesn’t want to protect or “guard” his countrymen because he doesn’t really love them. the writer makes the reader think that may be the writer or Airman is confused because the airman has no purpose to go to the war.

At the end of the poem the writer states that the airman is tired of his life and he think that his life useless, in the words of “The years to come seemed waste of breath / A waste of breath the years behind”. In other words, he is saying that my life is useless anyway, so why not join the military? This is depressing, but is he being serious? Now that we think of it, it’s possible that the speaker is being ironic. When he compares his life with the death, “In balance with this life, this death.” He reaches to the conclusion that perhaps the death is better than the life.

The writer has written this poem in a way that reader can assume according to their understanding. The main idea of this poem, that revolves the whole poem around is death. In the beginning of the poem, it feels like the Airman is being forced to go to the war, but, as the passes the whole point gets opposite that he chose to go not been forced. Yeats’ only solution to the question of why Airman got involved in the first place is a “lonely impulse of delight.”

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“An Irish Airman Foresees His Death” by William Butler Yeats. (2019, February 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 29, 2022, from
““An Irish Airman Foresees His Death” by William Butler Yeats.” GradesFixer, 11 Feb. 2019,
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