An Analysis of Yeats’ An Irish Airman Foresees His Death
It is an unspoken assumption that when a country goes to war the men fighting are honored and also that there is a large amount of support given to the soldiers from that particular community. What is often over-looked is the fact that many of the men, who are partaking in battle, are in fact, boys who do not even know what they are fighting for. Also, the community is not always supportive and helpful unless they see a personal benefit that will affect them in a positive way as an outcome of the war. In “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death”, Yeats introduces us to a man who is fighting in the war, not knowing what he is fighting for. Yeats also shows us, from a soldier’s view point, how a soldier feels while defending a country he does not feel any loyalty to, and how a soldier views the community he is laying his life on the line to protect.
It is apparent immediately in the beginning of the poem that this airman has a very bad attitude about the way this war is going. “I know that I shall meet my fate, Somewhere among the clouds above” (Yeats 154). The airman is saying that he knows, or senses, the fact that he will not make it out alive of this war. The reference made to “the clouds above” is simply reinforcing the fact that he is an airman in the war. These first two lines really set the tone for a poem that turns out to be a very somber, depressing piece of work. These two lines are symbolic of the airman’s attitude and take on life in general.
The third and fourth lines of the poem, “Those that I fight I do not hate, Those that I guard I do not love” (Yeats 154), tell us how he feels about the soldiers he is fighting against, and also how he feels about his fellow soldiers on his side. He does not really hate the enemy that he is fighting against; it is simply part of war to be brutal to the other side. A soldier must show hatred in battle towards the enemy to uphold his bravery otherwise; he may lose his nerve to fight. I would imagine that many soldiers, who are drafted or forced into the service, have to pretend to hate the enemy or they may start to realize that the boys on the other side are just as young and innocent as they are. As soldiers, they are taught to believe that everyone who is wearing the same uniform as themselves is his brother, his ally. This is a false sense of security and support that is drilled into the heads of soldiers. If they do not believe that everyone fighting by their side does support them, they would lose their nerve and would begin to question whether or not what they were doing was humane.
Many young males enlist in the armed services everyday. Some by choice or obligation, some by force, and some due to the lack of fulfillment in their present lives. The Irish airman in the poem Yeats writes about joins in the war due to loneliness and because he is unhappy with his life. “No law, nor duty bade me fight, Nor...