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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

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

William Butler Yeats, widely considered one of the greatest poets of the English language, received the 1923 Nobel Prize for Literature. His work was greatly influenced by the heritage and politics of Ireland.

by this poet

poem
We sat together at one summer's end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, "A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment's thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen
2
poem
Who will go drive with Fergus now, 
And pierce the deep wood's woven shade, 
And dance upon the level shore?
Young man, lift up your russet brow, 
And lift your tender eyelids, maid, 
And brood on hopes and fear no more. 

And no more turn aside and brood
Upon love's bitter mystery;
For Fergus rules the brazen
poem
                                I
What shall I do with this absurdity—
O heart, O troubled heart—this caricature,
Decrepit age that has been tied to me
As to a dog's tail?
                      Never had I more
Excited, passionate, fanatical
Imagination, nor an ear and eye
That more expected the impossible—
No,

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In celebration of the Irish poets who have changed how we think about...