Featured Poem: The Lake Isle of Innisfree by WB Yeats


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.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
WB Yeats

1 thought on “Featured Poem: The Lake Isle of Innisfree by WB Yeats”

  1. I have loved this poem since I was a teenager, it evokes lilac mists, swirling around the island, so that it seems to be floating above the water, sunset shadows, drooping arbutus trees around the edge, a hint of a small building through the bushes.
    Thank you – I will share it with my group on Friday.

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