Study Guide

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

by William Butler Yeats

The Lake Isle of Innisfree Summary

Introduction

First published in the collection The Rose in 1893, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” is an example of Yeats’s earlier lyric poems. Throughout the three short quatrains the poem explores the speaker’s longing for the peace and tranquility of his boyhood haunt, Innisfree.

“The Lake Isle of Innisfree” suggests that a life of simplicity in nature will bring peace to the troubled speaker. However, the poem is the speaker’s recollection of Innisfree, and therefore the journey is an emotional and spiritual escape rather than an actual one. Innisfree may be a symbol for the speaker’s passed youth, which the speaker is unable to return to in the “real,” or physical, world. Emotionally, the speaker can return again and again to the tranquility of Innisfree.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree Summary

Line 1
In this line Yeats establishes the opening tone as well as the refrain of the poem. The poem focuses on Innisfree as a place of escape for the speaker.

Lines 2–4
Here the speaker describes Innisfree as a simple, natural environment where he will build a cabin and live alone. Note the rich description in these lines. The language is specific. The speaker does not merely mention that he will build a cabin, but also that it will be made of “clay and wattles.” The speaker also specifies that he will have “nine bean-rows,” instead of simply a “garden.” These are images that conjure up in the mind of the reader concrete visual features of Yeats’s poetic fantasy. Notice also the particularly interesting image of the “bee-loud glade.” This image invests Innisfree with a magical air.

Lines 5–6
In these lines Yeats introduces the connection between peace and Innisfree in the speaker’s mind. The first line of the second stanza repeats the same meter employed in the first line of the first stanza. The reader can sense a refrain developing. The line “And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow” is composed almost entirely of iambic feet. This means that one unaccented syllable is followed by an accented syllable. The iambs are interrupted in the middle of the line by an amphibrach with the phrase “some peace there.” An amphibrach is composed of two unaccented...

(The entire section is 435 words.)