During WWI, an Irish aviator contemplates impending death,
as he struggles with defining his patriotic self :
fighting in the great war as British, at a time when
his country of birth- Ireland is fighting for independence
from Great Britain. Who exactly is he?
A soliloquy poem on national identity:
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 men, 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.
by William Butler Yeats, written in 1918