The Lake Isle of Innisfree by W. B. Yeats: Prompted by Home Sickness


W. B. Yeats was in London when he wrote The Lake Isle of Innisfree in 1890. The poem was prompted by a feeling of home sickness. Innisfree is an island in a lake near Sligo where as a young man Yeats had dreamed of a smooth life close to nature. He was standing on an actual London pavement (the pavements grey) when a jet of Walter in a chemist shop set him dreaming of this island.

In a sense this is a poem of escape. The poet wants to go away from the weary world of stress and strain to the peaceful island of Innisfree. The poet wants to go instantly with a heartfelt hyperbolic desire. In there he would build a cottage of clay and wattles and plant bears in rows. He would also have a hire for honey-bees. Peace and tranquility that he pines for will be enjoyed there:
"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."

The bee loud glade, the evening full of linnet’s wings, and morning to where the cricket sings – all such epithets convey the intensity of the poet’s desire to get away from the pavements gray of the London city. Though Innisfree looms larger than London in the poem, without the pavements gray it would be a poorer stock:

I hear lake 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."

The opposite and discarded qualities, both of thought and emotion, which can be fused through the efforts of the poetic imagination, are beautifully being drawn here in this poem.

The young Yeats has the parvenu of the romanticism and his ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’ is saturated with the romantic inclination. In fact he has romanticized the nature. In Innisfee he seeks tranquility and peace miles a part from suffering and pain of the world. He likes to sojourn amidst nature and its hue and smoothness. In this poem he amalgamates universality and personal emotion. Yet Innisfree cabin is alone a realm of imagination and on actual it is a Hill near Sligo. Nine bean rows refer to a kitchen garden which shows simplicity and a desire for home. His London is no place. In his cottage the bee loud glade is soothing music to our ear quite contrary to the voice of men. The message is clear that sights and sounds of nature are conclusive of peace. They aid marvel recreation of a mood.

In term of its music hymning and nature painting ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’ is one of the few modern poems that have so much artistry lavished upon them. This short lyric is indeed a spell of an enchanted atmosphere. R. L. Stevenson has rightly said of it, “It is so quaint and airy, simple and artful and eloquent to the heart”. 

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