I have read with interest your and others interpretations of "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death" by Yeats. English is not my native language, so I will not venture a lengthy interpretation of my own. However, there is one thing that has not been mentioned and that I find particularly beautiful with this poem. For an aircraft to fly, the forces of lift and gravitation have to be in balance. This fundamental concept is present in the poem in several places: The uplifting forces of love, happiness and life are balanced by the gravitational pull of hate, loss and death. To me, Yeats manages to give the whole poem wings.
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The poem “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death” explains fate as not only something the Irishmen can’t escape, but something he sees as a desire, but only if he has a sense of balance for himself....
An Irish Airman Foresees His Death - Move Him Into …
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Since I added my interpretation of 'An Irish Airman . . .', several people have written me with their comments. I would like to thank them for sharing their knowledge and point of view with me. I have learned a lot from them. I've posted the comments of those who have given permission to do so below. I would like to make clear, however, that, like my own interpretation, it is just that, and some individuals make statements that I have not fact checked. This page is not meant to be the gospel of W.B. Yeats. Read what is on this page knowing that not everything written here is the verified truth.
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Consider his nationality. What kind of Irish is our hero, whose own people have no meaning to him? What kind of person doesn't love his friends nor hate his foes, and past and future are all futile for him? He is so remote from the classical knight, having no beloved one nor any target, and the call of duty, the law, leadership or any other ideal or motive are nothing to him. What motivates this man, why is he going out to fly (flight has two meanings)? The answer is: A lonely impulse of delight. His only objective is himself. Delight, personal satisfaction. He flies solitarily to seek delight with himself, with no wish for any fruit and no interest in result. Put clearly - to masturbate in the sky. And in an astonishing parallel to Freud's Thanatos, death desire, in this way he wishes to die. His death is his final orgasm.
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Yeats knew this and so did all the airman of the day, Irish or otherwise. Yet, the airman in this poem, was willing to risk almost certain death, not for duty, honor, glory or out of any sense of obligation and knowing that neither his survival nor his death would make any difference to the outcome of the war.
Some Famous Love-Letters - Project Gutenberg Australia
In this context, the last two lines are not a message about life in general, but a statement of the power of the passion for flight. Airmen in those days were all volunteers and could turn in their wings anytime. But, the airman, as symbol of them all, would rather live "this life" and die in the air in a week than live to old age on the ground. The contrast is especially stark when you consider the conditions of the foot soldiers in the trenches who could expect longer lives, but had no hope of delighting in the circumstances of their deaths (Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori . . .)