In what way does the "Lake Isle of Innisfree" give peace to the poet's tired soul?

Expert Answers
coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One way in which the poem 'The Lake Isle of Inisfree' by William Butler Yeats gives peace to the poet's tired soul is in the things which it lacks. One story goes that Yeats wrote this poem after being struck with a sudden moment of homesickness as he heard the soft patter of a water fountain in a packed city street. The contrast between the commuters, the traffic, the street sellers, the hustle and bustle and perhaps the stress with his life in the peaceful pastoral landscape for a moment was exquisite but poignant. The poem beautifully describes the lack of activity, the tranquility, the peace coming 'dropping slow' and the stillness of the lake isle. 'Evening full of the linnets wings' suggests that even the birds feel safe to be there unthreatened and apart from man - except Yeats.

epollock | Student


Yeats's "The Lake Isle of Innisfree combines visual details, mostly unembellished with figurative language, and musical nuances, demonstrate the effectiveness of "imagery" in conjunction with sound. Yeats's famous early poem uses repetition at the start to establish a musical lilt and, in conjunction with syntactic inversion and specific details, to render the scene both dreamy and practical. It is easy to envision the individual details and to hear the soft, languorous rhythms in which Yeats lists them. Here is a man eager, indeed anxious, to make an escape from "the pavements gray" of the dull city to the "purple glow" of noon in his Irish island retreat.

This poem shows the early Yeats establishing his voice against the double backdrop of English Romanticism and Irish folklore and history. “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” can be considered as a personal reworking of themes found in Romantic poems like William Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey”. Similarly, the city-bound poet recalls the distant, welcoming countryside. Yeats actually wrote this poem in London, so that he was literally imagining his home countryside, and yet it’s hard to feel that the deeply urban Yeats really shares a longing to be in the country. Yeats, living in a wattle-and-daub hut, tending nine rows of beans? Probably not: What he really wants is to be in the city, inwardly hearing the country’s sounds, registering them “in the deep heart’s core” (line 12).

Using the anaphorous "I will arise and go now"(1), as an implied future wish, it becomes hollower the more it is used. It becomes a faint echo of an undesired longing. The poet expects peace to be his unconscious companion, not a destination.