Monday, June 22, 2009

William Butler Yeats: The Lake Isle of Innisfree

Another dreary day here in Maine (summer will come soon, I swear it will), and I'm at my kitchen table with a cup of tea and some Yeats. I'm in the mood for something classic today.

"The Lake Isle of Innisfree" was written in 1893, a meditation on the lake isle where Yeats used to vacation as a boy. When you think of your childhood, do you have a place of rest like this? Someplace you can go to in your mind when the rush and tumble of adulthood is too much?

For me, there was a little path through the woods I used to walk almost every day in the summer. The beginning of the path was small and close, lined with dark pine trees (I could have sworn faeries lived in there), but after a while, it opened up to light and birches. You'd pass a small open field, with a tree stump perfect for sitting, and if you turned to the right, you would come to the tiniest little opening at the lake--which I liked to call the "Wild Beach." When I was in college, the path was bulldozed and widened to allow forestry trucks to get through, and while it's still a lovely walk, the magic evaporated. But I still go there in my mind whenever I need a little peace that can't quite be found any other way.

"Innisfree" is one of the most lovely, lyrical, nostalgic pieces, and I love how the rhythm of the words flow like the lapping of the water--mesmerizing, infused with a deep, calm longing. It's almost a lullaby.

Below the poem, I've posted a neat homemade video of someone reading the poem while filming a spot on the actual Isle of Innisfree. Very cool.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree
by William Butler 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 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 evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear the water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

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