By Heart 04 – An Irish Airman foresees his Death.

This weeks one is another cheat. A poem I used to know off by heart but one that I fumbled in Galway. So back to the drawing board!


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

By William Butler Yeats

Yeats is my favourite poet, besting even Will Shakespeare!

Wikipedia has a particularly good explanation for this poem and it’s political motivations.

Written in 1918 and first published in the Macmillan edition of The Wild Swans at Coole in 1919.

The poem is a soliloquy given by an aviator in the First World War in which the narrator describes the circumstances surrounding his imminent death.

The poem is a work that discusses the role of Irish soldiers fighting for the United Kingdom during a time when they were trying to establish independence for Ireland.

Wishing to show restraint from publishing political poems during the height of the war, Yeats withheld publication of the poem until after the conflict had ended.

This poem I was first introduced to as a song, by the inimitable Pogues. Here the raw spoken text contrasts so powerfully with the beautiful haunting music.

Enjoy!

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