The Lake Isle of Innisfree Questions and Answers
by William Butler Yeats

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What's the theme of "The Lake of Innisfree"?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The poem expresses the speaker's desire to escape from a fast-paced urban life characterized by "pavements grey." He longs instead for a slower-paced existence in nature. He dreams of escaping to a small island on a lake, where he would live alone in a simple house made of "clay and wattles." There he would grow nine rows of beans and have a beehive.

The speaker believes the slower-paced life he dreams of will bring him peace. He writes,

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow

He describes the calming rhythm of days and nights lived close to nature and the quiet lapping of the waves against the shore. The speaker retains an image of this simple life as he goes about his busy urban days:

I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

Since the time of the poet Hesiod, in 800 BCE, poets have expressed a longing for a less cluttered life and a belief that peace comes through living in harmony with nature. Yeats's poem is compelling in that his images capture the slow, simple pace of such an imagined life. The last line expresses the idea that one can find peace even amid the urban rush by imagining this simpler existence.

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Lee Campbell eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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One of the best things about studying classic literature is that the themes found therein apply as much today as they did at the time of writing. So it is with Yeats's "The Lake Isle of Innisfree," a short but magnificent little narrative exploring the need many people feel to escape modern life and/or city life, and retreat to a place of solitude and quiet. The poem is heavily influenced by American writer Henry David Thoreau, who retreated to Walden Pond for a couple of years in the mid-1800's to do just what Yeats speaks of. Yeats envisions a cabin for himself, a place where he will hear water murmuring against the shoreline and not much else--sounds and images he imagines as he stands in the city on the concrete pavement.

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biscuitraider | Student

the main theme is nature

it talks about the splendour of nature, man's loathness towards modern, polluted city, his admiration towards the lake and his yearning to go back and live there, tranqulity, peacefullness and freshness in nature etc.