It seems barely a wet weekend since we enjoyed a Featured Poem from WB Yeats, but we couldn’t let his birthday pass without another dip into his back catalogue.
Certainly Yeats’ most well renowned poem, The Lake Isle of Innisfree also topped an Irish Times poll in 1999 as the greatest Irish poem of all time.
Written in 1889 when Yeats was living and working in London, the nostalgia in this poem is not only for the Sligo where he spent childhood summers with his grandparents, but also for a simpler, more natural way of life, something we touched on previously with Hound Voice.
Writing on the inspiration of this poem, Yeats said that a memory came to him suddenly as he walked down Fleet Street in London:
“I had still the ambition, formed in Sligo in my teens, of living an imitation of Thoreau on Innisfree, a little island in Lough Gill, and when walking through Fleet Street very homesick I heard little tinkle of water and saw a fountain in a shop window which balanced upon its jet, and began to remember lake water.” – WB Yeats
Yeats recreates the scenic beauty of Innsifree in his language, invoking potent aural imagery in “the bee-loud glade” and “evening full of linnet’s wings”. The water he mentions above proves prominent in the ‘peace dropping slow’ and “lake water lapping” that permeates his mind and his “deep heart’s core” amid the urbanity of the gray London pavements.