what is the soldier's attitude towards life and death in the poem an irish airman forsees his death?

1 Answer | Add Yours

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

A Byronic hero, the Irish airman contemplates his demise with aristocratic aplomb and a certain amount of ambiguity as he ponders that he is unconcerned for either side of World War I, the Germans and the English, 

Those that I fight I do not hate,

Those that I guard I do not love

Watching his dreams shatter, the Irish airman has the Joycean moment of insight in which he recognizes that he has enlisted because of "A lonely impulse of delight," the excitement of chauvanism.  Now, the future seems "a waste of breath," which then makes his past equally meaningless as he balances life and death. All has been for nothing as his country is "Kiltartan Cross" and his countrymen "Kiltartan's poor" for whom

No likely end could bring them loss

Or leave them happier than before.... 

A waste of breath the years behind

In balance with this life, this death.

 A poignant poem, "An Irsh Airman Foresees His Death" expresses the existential futility of both life and death, but it is a futility that the Romantic individual accepts.

We’ve answered 317,828 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question