Poetry Mastery Of William Butler Yeats
Death Up Above
The most improbable way of dying, is not knowing where the deathblow came from. To fight for what is right is not always wrong; to fight for something wrong is not always right. But to fulfill your duties as a soldier for your country is always right. Throughout our lives, each and every one of us have been handed a daunting task in which we do not take lightly. In Yeats poem, An Irish Airman Foresees His Death, Yeats uses imagery to propel his words through each of us to say that pilots fly from within, and not from any outside influence.
Yeats writes the poem as though he is the aviator, about to meet his demise. The first two lines prepare the reader for what lies ahead; the pilot will die. Yeats doesn’t stay with that point because he has more important thoughts to convey, so he moves on to establish the pilot’s motives. The pilot chose to fly and fight in the war, not because he hates the Imperial Germans, or because he loved his country; and he didn’t do it for fame or fortune. The pilot flew for one reason only; the sheer joy of flying. With the line, “I balanced all, brought all to mind,” Yeats begins to tell the reader what Major Gregory has to tell us about life and death. In it, Yeats is not merely saying that Major Gregory saw his life pass before his eyes. In reality, and especially at that moment before death, all that matters is the present. Perhaps that moment before death is the only moment when one can truly realize and wholeheartedly believe that. For it is difficult to look at one’s own life without hoping it will be better in the future or thinking about “how nice it was when! But what Yeats is trying to convey, is that any moment may be your last, so live it to it’s fullest. Live like you mean it!
Each of the lines of this poem holds different meanings in which conveys to us the deeper meanings of Yeats feelings towards the world and war. As in the line, Those that I fight I do not hate. Here the Irish people love all people, and they have difficulty understanding why they must fight for something they do not believe in. While this may be true, it also has the exact opposite. As in the line, Those that I guard I do not love. In this line, while the Irish are on the side of England, they do not care for the English, but they must protect and work with them. Because the English ruled the Irish, they must fight like England was their very own country. But the voice of the poem seems to come from this line; No likely end could bring them loss or leave them happier than before. This line speaks for all of the Irish people. It is like these people no longer have emotions. They have been stifled by the British for so long that they have become unemotional. While the second part of the line conveys they mindset of these people because it says that no matter how the war ends, they will not care. None of them understand the war.
William Butler Yeats uses an interesting but simple rhyme scheme to put forth his thoughts for us to perceive. The poem uses a very simple rhyme structure, with every other line rhyming. The simplistic rhyme pattern is used to emphasize the simple view of life that the pilot has, and the simple wishes he has. This simple structure does not get in the way of the meaning of the poem, and lets the reader see clearly what Yeats intends. Another literary device that Yeats uses is imagery. In this poem, important images occur more than once. One such image is “clouds.” It places emphasis on the fact that everything the pilot is living for is in the air. Ironically, his entire life is about the sky, but he will die because of his flying. The phrase “tumult in the clouds” shows the confusion within the pilot over his role. He is unsure of what to do with the war, and unsure of what to do with himself. He realized that everything was “in balance”, and he was going to die for his country, and this was what balanced the death. The images of “Cheering crowds” and “public men” are used to emphasize the fact that the pilot chooses to fly from within, not from any outside influence.
Throughout all of our lives, we take advantage of the little things that make life wonderful and lovely. But no matter the circumstances, we take advantage of it anyway. Some people live in the past, some in the present, some in the future. But whichever you choose, try to live life in each era. Because if you put them all together, they all with play an important role that will guide us throughout our lives. So live each and everyday to the fullest, because you never know when you are going to get shot down.
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