The Lake Isle of Innisfree

by William Butler Yeats

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What is the meaning of the poem "The Lake Isle of Innisfree"?

The speaker in the poem dreams of moving to a rural environment, ready to leave the roads and pavements of urban life. The speaker views nature as a form of escapism, fantasizing about the lake and animals of a place that is the opposite of where he currently is. 

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A brief summary of this poem is that the speaker is yearning for a place of escape.  His "happy place" as many people would call is in stark contrast to where he actually is...a street surrounded by gray pavement and hard silence in the city.

No, his place of escape is quiet but not silent.  There is a cabin, and images of soft, soothing water.  There will be "nine beans rows" in his garden and it is peaceful there.  The surroundings of his place of escape are natural and soothing...not manmade and harsh.  His place of escape does not cause stress like the city where he is in the last few lines of the poem.

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This poem is about a man, overwhelmed with urban life, who dreams of going back to nature in order to find some peace.  The man will build a small cabin there (line 2) and grow some beans (line 4).  He shall live alone (line 6) and "shall have some peace there" (line 7).  The sounds and sights of nature (second stanza) will be a comfort to him in comparison to the harsh pavement of the city (third stanza).

This poem was written at the end of the 19th century, when cities were growing quickly and nature was being abandoned for progress.  The poem emphasizes the ability of nature to restore the human spirit.  The poet has not literally gone to Innisfree, however.  In the end, although he hears the "water lapping with low sounds by the/shore", he is actually standing "on the roadway."  The contrast always readers to better understand the importance of nature, because the speaker is imagining it with rich detail even though he is far away from it.

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