What role does nature play in Yeats's Poetry? Pay special attention to “Easter 1916,” “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” and “The Wild Swans at Coole.”

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"I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree."

Nature plays an important role in much of the Irish poet William Butler Yeats's work, particularly that of his home country. "The Lake Isle of Innisfree " is one of his earliest poems, published in 1890. Innisfree is...

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"I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree."

Nature plays an important role in much of the Irish poet William Butler Yeats's work, particularly that of his home country. "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" is one of his earliest poems, published in 1890. Innisfree is an island in County Sligo where Yeats spent his summers growing up. The poem, which paints an idyllic picture of him building a cabin there and finding peace, can be seen as an example of the pastoral genre. It is filled with natural imagery, such as bees, lake water, and beans. Knowing that the author has a personal connection to the place also gives it a nostalgic undercurrent.

"Easter, 1916," a later poem, was written to commemorate or eulogize the failed Irish uprising against the British. It is, perhaps, not a great example of nature poetry, as the setting is urban and the theme political, although "summer and winter" are mentioned in line 42. Additionally, several animal references to hens, cocks, and horses are found in the third stanzas. These may be used for contrast.

Finally, "The Wild Swans at Coole" (1917) has another Irish setting, that of a park in County Galway. The subject of the poem is the swans, who are described as "brilliant," "mysterious," and "beautiful." Yeats is often searching for the transcendent or the sublime in his writing, so you could see the swans as having symbolic importance, which I will leave up to the reader to unpack. The astute reader of Yeats will think of his other major poem about swans, "Leda and the Swan," which has a very different tone and feeling.

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