Professor Joseph Stewart
February 1, 2013
“Somewhere among the clouds above”
A wise, yet unknown author once penned: “Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.” For it is often in the nature of children to dream of the years to come—treating time as an eternal commodity— and to embrace the feelings of maturity and the freedoms that accompany aging with open arms and ambitious hearts; yet, it is in this same humanistic perspective that adults yearn for quite the opposite, and find themselves pensive amidst an array of experiences; of memories; of raw emotions. William Butler Yeats’ poem, “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death”, is a work that serves as the antecedent to the band Keane’s song, “A Bad Dream”. Both exuding emotions quite visceral in nature, Keane’s interpretation is one that procures the gut-wrenching feelings of anguish, disappointment, and regret from its audience; an air of reminiscence wafts throughout each chorus and verse. Yeats, rather, portrays the life of a man whose will to live is greater than his fear of dying, and so finds the thrill of combat in the skies able to sustain his insatiable thirst for life itself. Equating life as death, Yeats’ raises the philosophical question of the meaning of existence, while Keane’s interpretation— serving as a melodic “final chapter” to the story of the Irish Airman—quashes the nihilistic argument, and emphasizes just how precious youth is as the scars of battle never fully fade. The opening lines of “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death” form both an assertion that the pilot will inevitably perish in combat, and that he is indifferent to the political context in which he is fighting; “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” (Yeats 1-4). A solider predicting his own death is not all too uncommon, especially for those who have systematically been exposed to...