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An Irish Airman forsees His Death

by William Bulter Yeats

Major Robert Gregory, a young Irish artist who was the son of Yeat's friend Lady Augusta Gregory, was killed during World War I while flying over Italy as a member of England's Royal Flying Corps. Gregory's death inspired Yeats to write this poem.

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 crowds,
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 behind,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.

This poem is about coming to terms with impending and inevitable death. A pilot in his plane soaring among the clouds reflecting on his fate. He knows what is awaiting him, death, yet he does not hate people who will bring him to his death. He does not love the country he is protecting, no one is forcing him and he knows that his death will have no effect on his country. But amidst the clouds and sky he find peace and comfort in his death. It is pointless to talk about the future that might be and a vast waste if breath to think of the past. He is certain that he is going to die, there is no hope. So he does the only thing he can do-values the present- deals only with the now.

"A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool."- William Shakespeare


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