John O'Flynn - Artist

John O'Flynn - Artist

"An Irish Airman Forsees His Death" - WB Yeats


"An Irish Airman Forsees His Death" - by WB Yeats


“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 county 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”. 


Artist’s comment on the illustration::


In Yeats' poem, "Irish airman" stands for "neutral airman"; the pilot is a semi-detached participant who is viewing the fray from the outside. The survival rate for aircrew was low, and he has come to terms - even if only momentarily - that he as likely to die as not. At this point he is indifferent to the both the war and to his own survival. Drawing on imagery from the movies I have placed him among an impressive armada of aircraft flying in formation among the clouds in a bright sky. A bright haze envelopes everything. On the cusp of life/death, removed from fear and angst, he is immersed in an ariel/heavenly beauty. 


Aircrew are constrained by their tight accommodation, so the airman is hemmed-in in his cock-pit: for all intents & purposed he is already his coffin - a glass-topped one, like that of "Sleeping Beauty". 

Oil on board, 61x47cm


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