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 man, 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.
Here’s a really terrific breakdown of W. B. Yeats’ “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death” — it’s easy to understand and definitely gives the viewer some insights into the poem’s meaning and construction.
I know that this is probably a strange thing to get hung up on, but I’m a little confused about how this poem’s title is supposed to be capitalized. (I keep seeing versions of it where the words “foresees his” are not capitalized.)
This is one of the better readings I’ve found online.
“An Irish Airman Foresees his Death”
by William Butler Yeats
“The Second Coming,”
by W.B. Yeats
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Photo credit: Icon of Second Coming, circa 1700, Greece. Christ is enthroned in the center surrounded by the angels and saints, Paradise is at the bottom, with the Bosom of Abraham (left) and the Good Thief (right) holding his cross. The creator is anonymous, the source here is Wikimedia Commons.
“An Irish Airman Foresees His Death”
by W.B. Yeats
|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,||5|
|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 man, nor cheering crowds,||10|
|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||15|
|In balance with this life, this death.|