The Striking Bluntness of Yeats’s “An Irish Airman foresees his Death”

While reading through all of Yeats’s poems last week, the one that stood out to me the most was his “An Irish Airman foresees his Death”. Apart from being one of the few poems I felt like I actually understood, I found this poem particularly noteworthy for its difference in writing style compared to Yeats’s earlier poems.

An artist’s rendition of “An Irish Airman foresees his Death”. Credit to Kay Cullen

It’s interesting to note that in “An Irish Airman foresees his Death”, Yeats writes very little about his usual nature tropes, and choosing instead to directly mention the themes that are often tied to his tropes.. Instead of mentioning his usual birds, streams, and rocks, Yeats chooses to explicitly talk about loss, balance, life and death.

I personally think that this poem is different due to Yeats writing about his own personal tragedy instead of more abstract themes. Loss, death, and grief are all sharp emotions that cut through all else when experienced. I feel like this poem was accurately able to convey this feeling with his bluntness of writing. The bleak outlook on life is imparted to the reader through lines such as “The years to come seemed waste of breath,/A waste of breath the years behind”. The simplicity the writing style is what makes the poem so effective in conveying Yeats’s emotions.

1 Comment

  1. I completely agree with the difference between this poem compared to his others that use so much more description of nature, details, and the senses. And I think you are right that this more direct and bleak approach is what makes the poem so much more impactful and striking, really showing his emotions and tension toward a darker subject.

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