An Irish Airman Foresees His Death - Poem Annotation

An annotation of W.B Yeats' 'An Irish Airman Foresees His Death'.

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  • Created on: 05-05-12 17:47
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An Irish Airman Foresees His Death
This poem was published in 1919, in memory of Major Robert Gregory, who fought and died in the
air war against Germany in World War One. It has been inferred through letters written by Gregory
that Gregory did not like Yeats. Major Gregory was the son of Lady Gregory, Yeats' very close friend.
Kiltartan is the area that Lady Gregory lived in. This poem is an `elegy' ­ a poem in memoriam of
Key themes include death, war, politics, conflict, balance and devastation.
The rhyme scheme is marked out in blue. This poem is iambic. This and the rhyme scheme give a
regular feel to the poem, which is notable is it is about death. This could be juxtaposing the theme of
the poem and making reference to the last line: `in balance with this life, this death' ­ balancing
out the loss of this poem, or perhaps referencing the idea that even though Robert Gregory has
died, the rest of the world goes on in the same monotony, his last words and thoughts having little
Yeats writes in LINK: In Memory of EGB & CM: innocent The pilot will die; this
first person; as if people losing life as a result of involvement in is everyone's fate in
he is the pilot. politics. the end.
Is he putting He didn't choose to
himself in the A fight out of hatred
place of the B I know that I shall meet my fate for the Germans or
speaker? He A Somewhere in the clouds above, love for his home: or
could be trying to B Those that I fight I do not hate, any other force. He
create his views C Those that I guard I do not love. only did so for the
on the war; its D My country is Kiltartan's Cross, sheer joy of flying.
pointlessness, C My countrymen Kiltartan's poor, His death will not
rather than D No likely end could bring them loss bring his
Gregory's. Those E Or leave them happier than before `countrymen' ­ the
that fought for F Nor law, nor duty bade me fight, Irish, any loss, and
the British in E Nor public men, nor cheering crowds, winning will not
World War One F A lonely impulse of delight benefit them- only
were considered G Drove to this tumult in the clouds; the British, who he
`traitors' by the H I balanced all, brought to mind, fought for.
IRA. Therefore, G The years to come seemed waste of breath, In the last moment,
Yeats may be H A waste of breath the years behind all that matters is
emphasising his In balance with this life, this death. that second.
view of the LINK: The Cold
pointlessness Heaven: `Ah! When
and Gregory's the ghost begins to
selfish reason for quicken' ­ the
fighting rather LINK: Contrast w/ The Man and the Echo: Romantic ideal of
than mourning Yeats says there that there is no release in that moment before
Gregory himself. death, but conflicts with it here. This may death.
have changed because later, Yeats was close The only
to death himself. caesura/complete
pause in the poem:
for emphasis, or
faltering with his
idea that death is the
only release.

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