Sunday, October 27, 2013

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. 

by Wm. Butler Yeats

Click here to hear Mr. Yeats recite his poem, and hear his voice. It reminds me a lot of recordings of Robert Frost reading his poetry, except (of course) for Mr. Yeats's lovely Irish accent.
Below is a lovely recording of the musical group Secret Garden and their song, "Sigma," with the poem's text. (Skip the advertisement at the beginning.)

I love this poem. It speaks of introversion, and intense desire to be alone in order to enjoy all the pleasures of a beautiful, unique place. This desire to be alone is no passive thing; the poet determines to get up, and get going, and leave behind the roads and grey pavements of the city, and seek out the place his heart most desires. He can resist no longer. It beckons his heart, and every moment it fills his mind and his senses. Above all else, it provides peace.

Is it wrong to find peace in a place? Indeed not. We were designed to find peace, utter satisfying rest, in a place. Yeats's description simply shows how heaven has a vice hold on the human heart. Deep in our core, we long for its peace, for its grasses and bees and lapping water. However, having sadly convinced ourselves that heaven is nothing more than a white box or a state of mind or a fuzzy, boring cloud, we resort to finding its peace here, in a broken earth. We are frustrated at our failure to find it. For me, this poem expresses a simple, intense yearning for God's perfect rest after life's "pavements grey."


  1. The real Innisfree is apparently barely more than a rock in the lake, but Yeats liked the name. The place described in the poem is another island on the lake, but its name didn't fit! You can go on a boat trip and see both which I've never done, but we do go through Sligo sometimes and always visit his grave in the churchyard at Drumliff. You'd love it. Not least the conveniently placed coffee/gift shop!!

  2. Mags, I'm really fond of Yeats's poetry. It has a deep, sad quality that appeals to me, and it's always laden with layers of meaning. I wish I could take the lake tour, see his grave, and sit in the coffee shop with you!

  3. And we could share our favourite poems! I'm going to dig my book out right now...

  4. What an interesting contrast in the two recordings. I am surprised at how Yeats read his poem, almost a monotone for most of it.
    The Secret Garden version is very pretty, if you don't mind not knowing the language. I assume it's Gaelic?

  5. Gretchen, I wondered the same thing. I've listened to this song for YEARS. But then Debbie linked to it over at the Muses when I mentioned this poem, so I looked at the video. Then I went hunting :) The words they sing is not the text of Yeats's poem. It's something else altogether, but it's sound is a lovely accompaniment to the poem's text, for this video.


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