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About this Poem 

First published in the second edition of The Wild Swans at Coole (1919), "An Irish Airman Forsees His Death" is one of four poems written on Major Robert Gregory, the only son of Lady Gregory, Irish poet, dramatist, and folklorist. The other three poems include "The Sad Shepherd" (later known as "Shepherd and Goatherd"), "In Memory of Major Robert Gregory," and "Reprisals," which was published after Yeats's death.

An Irish Airman Foresees His Death

W. B. Yeats, 1865 - 1939
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.

This poem is in the public domain.

 

This poem is in the public domain.

 

W. B. Yeats

W. B. Yeats

The work of William Butler Yeats, born in 1865, was greatly influenced by the heritage and politics of Ireland.

by this poet

poem
Once more the storm is howling, and half hid
Under this cradle-hood and coverlid
My child sleeps on.  There is no obstacle
But Gregory's wood and one bare hill
Whereby the haystack- and roof-levelling wind,
Bred on the Atlantic, can be stayed;
And for an hour I have walked and prayed
Because of the great gloom
poem

Now as at all times I can see in the mind's eye,
In their stiff, painted clothes, the pale unsatisfied ones
Appear and disappear in the blue depth of the sky
With all their ancient faces like rain-beaten stones,
And all their helms of silver hovering side by side,
And all their eyes still

poem

Hands, do what you're bid:
Bring the balloon of the mind
That bellies and drags in the wind
Into its narrow shed.