The Lake Isle of Innisfree

by William Butler Yeats

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The Lake Isle of Innisfree Summary

The Lake Isle of Innisfree” by W. B. Yeats is a short poem about a man who yearns for the peace and simplicity of nature.

  • The speaker longs for the peace of Innisfree, a small island in Ireland.
  • He describes the island as a simple, natural place where he can build a cabin and live alone.
  • The speaker believes that he will find peace on Innisfree because it is far away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

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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 syllables sandwiching an accented one. It is used for emphasis. The amphibraic foot in the fifth line corresponds with the similar foot in the first line. This may be used to emphasize the metaphor that Innisfree represents escape for the speaker. Line six contains a good example of figurative language. Yeats wants to explain that the abstract idea of “peace” is abundant from morning until night in Innisfree, but instead of relying on that cliche, he transforms morning into the image of veils from which peace falls. Night has also been transformed into “where the cricket sings.”

Lines 7–8
Here Yeats continues with transforming midnight and noon into almost eerie images. Evening becomes a dark image of the sky filled with the wings of birds.

Lines 9–12
In the last lines of the poem, the speaker stands in the street surrounded by gray pavement. This image, which is hard and silent, contrasts with the soothing, soft image of the water. The speaker continues to hear the sounds of nature even in the city. The peace of Innisfree is able to transcend the urban environment because it resides in a completely natural one, that of the speaker himself.

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