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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

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

Suddenly I saw the cold and rook-delighting heaven
That seemed as though ice burned and was but the more ice,
And thereupon imagination and heart were driven
So wild that every casual thought of that and this
Vanished, and left but memories, that should be out of season
With the hot blood

Although I can see him still,
The freckled man who goes
To a grey place on a hill
In grey Connemara clothes
At dawn to cast his flies,
It's long since I began
To call up to the eyes
This wise and simple man.
All day I'd looked in the face
What I had hoped 'twould be
To write for my own race
And the reality;

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