Acceptance of Death in Yeats’s ‘An Irish Airman Foresees his Death’ and Shakespeare’s ‘Come Away, Come Away, Death’

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W. B. Yeats’s poem ‘An Irish Airman Foresees his Death’ and Shakespeare’s poem ‘Come Away, Come Away, Death’ both deal with the theme of impending death, although by varying causes. While the poems employ similar figurative and sonic elements of language, their tone and style vary. Yeats’s poem is primarily a war poem that serves as an elegy for the Irish pilot Major Robert Gregory who died in WWI. As opposed to this Shakespeare’s poem is a lamenting love song sung by the character of Feste in Twelfth Night. Despite being different in setting, they both express an acceptance of death. While both poems convey an awareness of death approaching, the causes of death are different. Shakespeare’s poem being a lament about unrequited love,…show more content…
This regular rhythm, reminiscent of the rhythm of a funeral march, creates a somber atmosphere that amplifies the tone of the poems, the coming to peace with death. The regularity of the rhythm is further intensified by the use of poetic devices such as alliteration, caesura and repetition. In Yeats’s poem the regularity of rhythm is augmented by the same length of lines with a tetrameter that follows throughout the poem, providing not only and audible uniformity, but also a visual one. This uniformity is reminiscent of the uniformity one associates with the army. Yeats uses alliteration of ‘c’ and ‘t’ in the line ‘My country is Kiltartan Cross’(5). While adding to the consistency to the poem’s rhythmic beat, this also emphasizes the content, i.e. the airman didn’t fight for any country or cause, but rather for his village of Kiltartan Cross. In contrast to Yeats’s poem, Shakespeare’s ‘Come Away, Come Away, Death’ is neither visually nor audibly uniform. The poem’s line lengths vary and alternate with long and short lines. This affects the poem both visually and audibly, reflecting it’s song-like quality. The fact that the poem is closer to a song is linked to its theme. A lament on death due to love would more appropriately be expressed through song. This strong emotion is expressed through the use of hyperbole such as ‘a thousand thousand sighs to save’ (13), this repetition of ‘thousand’, conveys that that the

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