Analysis Of “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death“
The idea of war brings to mind a noble cause, or a love of country. This is not so in the poem “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death.” William Butler Yeats uses the speaker of this poem to convey the theme: even in the face of death, joy can be found. The pilot does not hate those that he fights against. Ireland did not have many direct enemies, except for those that kept them from living free. But, being under British rule and fighting for them, especially for a cause that made no sense to the pilot, did not evoke many feelings of love either. When the speaker states of his country that “No likely end will bring them loss Or leave them happier than before,” he knows that Kiltartan Cross and therefore he, will not be affected by the outcome of the war. Kiltartan’s people have nothing left to lose and therefore cannot be brought loss. This shows that the pilot knows that he is fighting for a cause in which he has no stake in. The speaker is characterized with bravery, courage, and humility in saying that “Nor law, nor duty bade me fight, Nor public men, nor cheering crowds.” The pilot is not interested in the honor he will gain and obviously has no sense of patriotic duty to a country that is not his own. The pilot is choosing to fight for a cause he does not understand simply because he wants to fly. Unlike many of his countrymen, the pilot wanted to fly and fight for Britain, which is shown through his “lonely impulse of delight.” The pilot has accepted that he will fight for a cause in which he has no belief only to die “somewhere among the clouds.” He has reached an attitude of indifference which enables him to engage in his love of flying and fight for a lost or misunderstood cause. The pilots disregard for everything else in life except flying illustrates that he may be a young man, in the prime of his life, with no family to look after or other responsibilities. Understanding that death is imminent, the pilot thinks about his life; his past and what he has wanted to do in the future. He compares it with the moment at hand and decides that nothing can compare to what he is doing right then. The pilot thinking the “years to come seemed a waste of breath, A waste of breath the years behind,” compounds this point. He reaches a point to where he has become “In balance with this life, this death.” He is in complete harmony with both life and death and life is no longer any more important than dying, nor is death more important than life.
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The title "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death" is reflective of the fact that the airman foresaw his impending death. This title is significant in that it reflects the fate that many people fighting in war face. They know their death is approaching them with very little they can do about it.
This poem is recited in first person. The poet is recounting the thoughts that are going through his mind as his death approaches. This choice of voice is important because it gives insight into the thoughts of the airman fighting on the verge of death.
This poem takes place around 1916 during one of the Irish civil wars in the skies over Ireland. The mood and atmosphere created by Yeats is of a solemn, peaceful tone. The pilot sees his death forthcoming yet he does not seem regretful or scared, but rather accepts the fate he is going to encounter.
The poem is one stanza long. It is divided into four sections and in each section the first and thrid lines rhyme, as do the second and fourth. There are approximately 8 syllables per line. The simple form reflects the rather simple theme of the poem.
The poem has a rhyme pattern of ababcdcdefefghgh. A metaphor present in the poem is "Drove to this tumult in the clouds." (Yeats) Through this metaphor it explains that once the narrator had reached the peak of his flight, he has also reached the peak of his life. From here he will encounter his death. Anohter example of a metaphor presented in this poem is "A waste of breath the years behind." (Yeats) This passage from the poem is a metaphor which compares the years that have past and how they were a waste of time. An example of irony found in the poem is when he says he does not love or want to protect the people of his country, yet when people go to war they usually fight with honour for their country.
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.
Sense To Sound
Words were chosen carefully to fit the rhyme scheme and make it more appealling to the reader with the attempt to stress every second syllable.
This poem captures the essence of the mind set of a airman facing death. This insight is what makes the poem memorable. This poem is about an Irish airman pilot fighting in the war awaiting his death. He is prepared for death because after reflecting on his life he realizes that it has been a waste of time. This is reflected in the quote, "A waste of breath the years behind / In balance with this life, this death." (Yeats)
The Kiltartan Cross was a group of Roman Catholics that were directly related to the Air Force. These people had their own tartan, or their own colors for their kilts that they wore. The different types of tartan colors signified different groups of poeple whether it be a clan of people or a military group. They are poor because they do not have their own country. Under British rule.