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 honeybee,
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 evenings full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear the 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.
William Butler Yeats
About the poet – W.B.Yeats
W.B. Yeats (1865- 1939) was an Irish poet, writer and a dramatist. He was born in Sandymouth, Dublin in Ireland. Yeats received the Nobel Prize in1923. He moved to London when he was two, but spent much of his time in Siligo with his grandparents. Some of his famous poems are ‘The Second Coming’, ’Sailing to Byzanthium’, ‘The Stolen Child’, ’Easter 1916’ and ‘Lake Isle of Innisfree’. In the last poem he speaks of his yearnings to go back to the peaceful place away from the humdrum of city-life to lead life in solitude. However, in reality, Lake Isle of Innisfree is an uninhabited island within Lough Gill, in Ireland. Yeats spent his summers near that place as a child, and was familiar with the surroundings.
In this lyrical poem the poet W.B. Yeats speaks of his nostalgia for Innisfree which he visited during his childhood. The poem starts with the poet’s declaration that he would return to Innisfree and build a simple cabin with clay and twisted sticks, or wattles. He also plans to plant seven rows of beans, and have a bee-hive for honey, which would help him to sustain. In this stanza he speaks of his physical needs which he would fulfil by nurturing nature with meditative labour. He wants to lead a solitary life in the cabin surrounded by meadows, and listen to the humming of bees which would create an atmosphere of peace and serenity.
In the second stanza, he speaks of spiritual fulfilment which comes through prolonged communion with nature. He says that peace seeps in slowly into our patient minds. He likens the process of meditative contentment with that of a peaceful morning, when the mist lifts slowly to reveal a morning with crickets chirping in a serene atmosphere. At night, the night sky full of twinkling stars would fill him with pleasure and the purple glow of the afternoon sun would spread an aura of tranquillity. The evening sky would be filled with linnets intercepting each other in their last flight before settling down for the day. All these would bring in profound contentment that the poet is desirous of.
The last stanza reflects the poets yearning to break the ties of mundane city-life and go back to Innisfree. He desires to go back to the island and live a peaceful life as he hears the sound of water splashing on the shore all the time in his mind. The mundane urban life, with its grey pavements, roads and all its hustle and bustle, chokes his mind and heart. He wishes to break away from the city life and return to a simple life in the lap of nature where he would be able to enjoy its material as well as spiritual bounties.
wattles: twisted sticks for making fences, walls
glade: clearing; open space in wood or forest
linnet: a small brown and grey bird with a short beak
pavements – a raised asphalted path at the side of the road
glitter – shimmering reflected light
lapping – (here) splashing or slapping of water on land
Literary devices in ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’
Alliteration – Repetition of consonant sound in closely placed words.
Hive for the honeybee – repetition of ‘h’ sound
Lake water lapping with low – repetition of ‘l’ sound
Hear…deep hearts core- repetition of ‘h’ sound
Repetition – use of same words or phrases for sake of emphasis.
‘I will arise and go now’ – repeated in stanza 1 and 3. (These lines are linked to the Bible – “ I will arise and go to my father.” (Luke 15:18)
Personification – giving human characteristics to non-living objects.
Morning -has been personified, as she lifts her veil of mist to reveal her bright face.
Assonance – repetition of vowel sound.
Gonow and go to – repetition of ‘o’ sound
Metaphor – indirect comparison between two objects or ideas to denote similarity.
Veils of the morning -the white mists of the morning are compared to a lady’s veil
Onomatopoeia – a word that represents the sound it makes.
Lapping – the word represents the sound it is making.
Anaphora – Repetition of same words at the beginning of phrases, clauses or sentences.
I will arise
I hear the – repetition of the word ‘I’ in lines 9 and 10
Thinking about the Poem
Question –Answers of ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’
I. 1. What kind of place is Innisfree?
Ans. Innisfree is an island in Ireland. It is a beautiful place, where nature is in its full swing.
(i) the three things the poet wants to do when he goes back there (stanza I);
Ans. The poet wants to build a cabin using clay and wattles.
He wants to plant nine rows of beans.
He wants a hive for honeybees to help him lead a simple life in tranquil surroundings.
(ii) what he hears and sees there and its effect on him (stanza II);
Ans. The poet sees meadows around his cabin and hears the sonorous humming of bees. He listens to the singing of the crickets as the mist rises like a veil to reveal a pleasant morning. He sees the night sky glittering with twinkling stars, the purplish glow of the afternoon sun, and a sky full of linnets flitting across the sky in the evening.
(iii) what he hears in his “heart’s core” even when he is far away from Innisfree (stanza III).
Ans. Deep down in his heart, the poet hears the lapping of water on the shores of Innisfree even when he is standing on the grey pavements of the dull city.
2. By now you may have concluded that Innisfree is a simple, natural place, full of beauty and peace. How does the poet contrast it with where he now stands? (Read stanza III.)
Ans. The natural beauty of Innisfree which symbolises blissful life; is contrasted with the busy roads and dull grey pavements of the city, which symbolises sadness, decay and death. Innisfree is full of natural beauty and tranquility where the poet can listen to the pleasant songs of birds and insects. Innisfree is pollution- free unlike the city which is noisy and full of pollution of every kind.
3. Do you think Innisfree is only a place, or a state of mind? Does the poet actually miss the place of his boyhood days?
Ans. In my opinion the natural beauty of Innisfree is not a creation of the poet’s fancy. It is a real island in Ireland which the poet used to visit in his childhood. Though it is an uninhabited island in reality, it caught the poet’s fancy when he was a child and he longs to live in such a peaceful place full of nature’s beauty. It is an island which gives solace to the poet’s frustrated mind.
The poet actually misses his boyhood days. He desires to go back to that place with such intensity that it has become a symbol of escape from the harsh realities of life. To him, the isle of Innisfree is a place of respite from the stressful, mundane city life and a haven for the disturbed soul.
II. 1. Look at the words the poet uses to describe what he sees and hears at Innisfree
(i) bee-loud glade
These words create an image of a meadow that is full of bees humming all around. The poet has used auditory imagery to help the readers hear the buzzing of bees in a peaceful atmosphere.
(ii) evenings full of the linnet’s wings
Linnet is a small grey and brown bird with a small beak. It is known for its beautiful wings which is most visible as the hover around in the sky in the evenings. There flight had left an unforgettable impression on the poets mind and he wishes to experience it again in Innisfree.
(iii) lake water lapping with low sounds
With these words the poet has created an auditory image of the lake water brushing gently on the shoreline of Innisfree. The sound is low because the water is splashing quietly on the shore; and also because it is a faint memory from the distant past. In contrast, his present desire to relive the pleasant days is extremely strong.
Q. What pictures do these words create in your mind?
2. Look at these words;
… peace comes dropping slow
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings
Q. What do these words mean to you? What do you think “comes dropping slow…from the veils of the morning”? What does “to where the cricket sings” mean?
The words tell us that peace is something that is acquired slowly when we are in natural surroundings and living a life that is in harmony with nature. It is not something that could be achieved through instant gratification.
Peace of mind comes slowly bit by bit only when we are in tune with nature. It comes day after day as the morning mist rises like a veil revealing a morning full of aesthetic beauty.
Through the phrase “ to where the cricket sings” poet implies that we can get peace living a solitary life in the lap of nature where the morning begins with the vibrant but melodious sounds like the singing of crickets.
Message of ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’
The poem ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’, gives us the message that true peace of mind can be achieved only when we are living a life that is in harmony with nature. So, to lead a peaceful life we must return to nature. Peace seeps in slowly in our lives when we are living in natural surroundings which provide all the elements that are required to live a peaceful life. In contrast, the bleak life in cities is full of stress, pollution and ugliness from which the poet desperately wants to escape.
Theme of ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’
The theme of ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’ is ‘Return to Nature’. The poet contrasts the idylic peaceful life in nature with the bleak mundane life in cities. The poem makes us realise that the peaceful life that we crave for cannot be achieved in cities which are full of stress, pollution and ugliness.
Rhyme scheme of ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’
All the three stanzas of the poem ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’ follow the rhyme scheme ‘abab’. It is written mostly in hexameter.
Health is the greatest gift, contentment
the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best