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The Lake Isle of Innisfree
By W.B. Yeats

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
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket
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.

Poet Spotlight

W.B. Yeats -
Born in Dublin, Ireland, on June 13, 1865, William Butler Yeats was the son of a well-known Irish painter, John Butler Yeats. He spent his childhood in County Sligo, where his parents were raised, and in London. He returned to Dublin at the age of fifteen to continue his education and study painting, but quickly discovered he preferred poetry.
In later years, Yeats became involved with the Celtic Revival, a movement against the cultural influences of English rule in Ireland during the Victorian period, which sought to promote the spirit of Ireland’s native heritage. Though Yeats never learned Gaelic himself, his writing at the turn of the century drew extensively from sources in Irish mythology and folklore.
His work after 1910 was strongly influenced by Pound, becoming more modern in its concision and imagery, but Yeats never abandoned his strict adherence to traditional verse forms.
He had a life-long interest in mysticism and the occult, which was off-putting to some readers, but he remained uninhibited in advancing his idiosyncratic philosophy, and his poetry continued to grow stronger as he grew older.
Appointed a senator of the Irish Free State in 1922, he is remembered as an important cultural leader, as a major playwright (he was one of the founders of the famous Abbey Theatre in Dublin), and as one of the very greatest poets—in any language—of the century.
W. B. Yeats was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1923 and died in 1939 at the age of seventy-three.
W.H. Auden (himself a poet) said, Yeats wrote “some of the most beautiful poetry” of modern times.

Personal Background

Yeats is one of my favorite poets.
1) I love the lilting quality of his verse, the way you can hear the ebb and flow of sound like the tide.

2) I love the fae myths and folklore he often invokes.

3) I think he’s put together some of the most beautiful phrases - Tread softly, for you tread on my dreams or

Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame!”

Trip to Ireland - visited Yeats grave and went to Sligo.
Went to Innisfree
Why this poem NOW?
Life is incredibly hectic right now. Changes at work, husband and child busy, lot’s of stress and obligations…
… and I feel a lot like the speaker in The Lake Isle of Innisfree (presumably Yeats).


Innisfree - a small uninhabited island in Lough Gill. Lough Gill means bright or radiant lake and is a freshwater (lake) mainly situated in County Sligo.

wattle - a material for making fences, walls, etc., consisting of rods or stakes interlaced with twigs or branches.!/web/wattleanddaub.jpg

linnet - The common linnet is a small passerine bird of the finch family, Fringillidae. It derives its scientific name from its fondness for hemp and its English name from its liking for seeds of flax, from which linen is made.

Innisfree - a small uninhabited island in Lough Gill. Lough Gill means bright or radiant lake and is a freshwater (lake) mainly situated in County Sligo.

Technical Aspects

Rhyme Scheme
Lines 1 and 3 rhyme.
Lines 2 and 4 rhyme.

Structure -
There are 3 stanzas (or paragraphs), each with 4 lines. This is called a quatrain.

Meter -
Iambic (unstressed syllable followed by stressed syllable)
First 3 lines each stanza have six iambic “feet” or units of stressed and unstressed syllables. When there are six of these units per line, it is referred to as hexameter.

Hexameter was the standard epic metre in classical Greek and Latin literature, such as in the Iliad, Odyssey and Aeneid. According to Greek mythology, hexameter was invented by the god Hermes.

Last line of each stanza - tetrameter or 4 feet. (Shorter lines.)

Rhyme Scheme


Lines 1 and 3 rhyme.
Lines 2 and 4 rhyme.

Structure -

There are 3 stanzas (or paragraphs), each with 4 lines. This is called a quatrain.

Themes, Symbols, and Imagery

Nature Poem

Nature is used to signify an idyllic place, a sort of utopia or paradise.

Yeats is very specific about this place. He gives an actual geographical location: Innisfree. He tells what type of home he will live in: cabin made of wattles. He tells what he will eat: produce from his own garden (bean-rows) and honey from the bees he keeps. He tells who will live with him: no one.

Spiritual Transformation

Second stanza moves into an even more ethereal description and introduces an idea of this place being equated with spiritual restoration/peace. Here, Innisfree begins to take on a sort of “glow” that exists outside time. Here midnight glimmers. Noon is a purple glow. (Times of day taking on qualities of their opposites. This also reminds me of a type of photographic filter, like we’ve gone in and enhanced what was already there (as described in the first stanza), and now we’re adding a new sheen. Here, we’re getting more of an idea of this place as a daydream.

Longing -

The third stanza moves into this feeling of desire. It reiterates this longing to go to Innisfree, but this time there’s more of a hint that it might not be as possible as it was in the first stanza. The speaker hears the lake water calling to him, but he’s in the city. He’s said he will go… he’s fantasized and dreamed / it’s in his heart to go… but he hasn’t taken any action. “I will go,” he says, but not “I’m going.”


Excerpts from Tintern Abbey:

again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a sweet inland murmur.*—Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
Which on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.

Though absent long,
These forms of beauty have not been to me,
As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart,
And passing even into my purer mind 30
With tranquil restoration:

oh! how oft,
In darkness, and amid the many shapes
Of joyless day-light; when the fretful stir
Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,
Have hung upon the beatings of my heart,
How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee
O sylvan Wye! Thou wanderer through the wood
How often has my spirit turned to thee!

Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world
Of eye and ear, both what they half-create,*
And what perceive; well pleased to recognize
In nature and the language of the sense,
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse, 110
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.







The speaker of the poem would like to go to Innisfree in the future, but Yeats (and we assume the speaker) is already familiar with this place. The detail described indicates intimately familiar, so, in addition to wanting to go there in the future, I think the speaker is also reflecting on earlier times spent at the place.

This reminds me of another poem inspired by a poet’s nostalgia for a place known in childhood: Wordsworth’s “Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey”.

Assonance, Consonance, and Alliteration

Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee

Live alone in the bee-loud glade

midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow

lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore

What does alliteration do?

Makes more memorable / mnemonic

The specific sounds used make a difference. Ex: “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.” “Yesss, Precioussss.”



“L” sounds - lullaby, laudanum, lavendar

“e” sounds -
Another poem: The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,

“h” sounds

Assonance -

Consonance -

Alliteration -


Do you think the speaker is really serious about going to Innisfree? What, if anything, prevents him from going now?

Yeats’ “happy place” was thinking of Innisfree. Wordsworth’s was thinking of the Wye River and area around Tintern Abbey in Wales. Where is your happy place?

Where is the place you would most like to call home, both the geographical location (e.g., New York City, French Riviera, etc.) and the kind of structure (e.g., a palace, a log cabin, a hut, etc.)? Does this place differ from the “happy place” you go to in your mind when you want to escape?

People often daydream when they are dissatisfied with their lives. They fantasize about how circumstances might be different and how new surroundings would make them more content or change them as a person. They see themselves in daydreams differently.

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