What  details in the poem "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" by W.B. Yeats suggest that it is timeless?

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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W.B. Yeat’s beautiful poem, ”The Lake Isle of Innisfree, ” is based on an actual experience. When Yeats was a child, his father read Henry David Thoreau’s Walden to him.  Yeats so loved Thoreau’s ideas that he decided to try to immolate him by crossing the Irish Lough Gill at night and visiting an uninhabited isle known as Innisfree.  He would observe the wildlife and birds.  To him, this was a paradise which never left his memory.

Yeats was twenty-five and living in London;  he often walked the streets. Loneliness and his longing for sanctuary enticed him to return to the Isle  of Innisfree and live the simplistic life of Thoreau.  Yeats never carried out his “Walden” adventure. Thankfully, he did write the poem to reflect his thoughts. This timeless poem, divided into three stanzas, describes his fantasy.

The poet wants to go to Innisfree and build a cabin made of clay and poles interwoven with branches.

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,                                                                                 And there a small cabin build…

Like Thoreau, he would live from he what he grew.  His garden would be planted with nine rows of beans. Also, he will produce honey and live by himself listening to the buzzing of the bees.

In the second stanza, the poet longs for the peace of the island because tranquility is hard to find in the busy city.  But to Innisfree it comes in the dewy morning with the chirping of the cricket and lasts through noon and finally until midnight when the fireflies and little finches fly around. The poet wants to be a part of the natural world.

The final stanza repeats the theme of the poem in its first line.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day

I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore…

In his dreams and daytime activities, Yeats can hear the water coming up to the shore even as he stands on the road or pavement in the streets of London.   His sensory experience lies in the deepest part of his heart. 

While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,

I hear it in the deep heart's core.

The references to the pavement and the roadway let the reader know that the poet is standing somewhere in the city in the present time.  However, in his heart, he finds himself at Innisfree as it was when he was a boy. To Yeats,  this is the most  idyllic place on earth. 

Each of us has a special place that reminds us of another more peaceful time.  Sometimes, it’s our childhood home or grandparents’ home.  Wherever that place is,  hold it close to the heart.


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iklan100 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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A good answer above, and if it's ok,I would please like to add some further points:

The historical allusions to 1890, when Yeats was living in London and tired of the fret and fury of urban life and found a measure of peace on the isle of Innisfree in Lough Gill (Sligo country, Ireland) are quite apt and I feel that in terms of 'timelessness' as asked by the querier, there are 2 examples that are especially relevant:

STANZA 2: ''And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow'. Now the poet, Yeats, in his reveries, is in no hurry; he is able to transcend (also a bit like Thoreau) the worldly rush and time-bound lunacy, and to find his own little peaceful nook, where time has no meaning-- or if it has, it is a 'separate' time or timeframe althogether.

STANZA 3: ''...for always night and day, I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore''. This takes the poem, finally on to another level again. Even when Yeats is back in London, amidst his urban fogs and all, the lake isle of Innisfree is 'with' him' it is in his memories with a great deal of vividness, palpable, he can see and hear the lough/lake's waters lapping on its shores in his 'mind's eye'. In this respect, the ppeom -- and of course the lake isle-- become well and truly timeless for some memories are like that, they both  transfix us to a special 'moment' which remains always real and alive; and at the same time, the liberate us from time and its wasting effects, always fresh and immortal in our minds.

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okjani | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

What a lovely answer! Almost like poetry in itself.

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