The Irish Airman’s Sacrifice for the Stone

In Yeats’ poem “Easter, 1916,” he explores the fight against British overtake and encapsulates the passion with which they yearn for independence. He describes the Irish people as “Enchanted to a stone/ To trouble the living stream” (Yeats 17). Here, the dream of an Irish society that stands against the stream of British control is embodied by a stone, one idea that entrances all. While the passion described feels powerful, Yeats also takes note of its cost. He questions the sacrifices made by the Irish people to achieve their dream, and whether or not these sacrifices are necessary and just. He laments the suffering caused by their seemingly neverending fight.

This interaction with the issue of Irish society’s sacrifice comes up again in the poem “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death.” In this text, there is something notably different about the way in which the narrator speaks about the fight; in this piece, the airman speaks of his actions with a sense of apathy. He notes, “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” (Yeats 19). There is no passion in the airman’s speech, no indication that he holds a fascination with the aforementioned “stone.” The airman sees his sacrifice as pointless, and notes that his reason for fighting was “A lonely implulse of delight” (Yeats 19). In this poem, three years following the publication of “Easter, 1916,” Yeats continues to discuss the losses that Irish society faced in their pursuit of independence, and question whether the inner and outer violence upon the self is just in the face of this pursuit.

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