The Lake Isle of Innisfree by William Butler Yeats

The Lake Isle of Innisfree by William butler Yeats is a written inspiration from the author’s teenage years. He had read Walden by Henry David Thoreau and wished to imitate Thoreau by living on Innisfree Island.

As his teenager, Yeats would visit Lough Gill at night in the company of his cousin. One night they went to the lake, observed the birds and listened to the stories by the crew in the Yatch. The area around the lake created a clear contrast between the city and nature that he used in this poem.

Set in divisions of three quatrains, each quatrain explores the speaker’s quest for peace and tranquility of Innisfree while the narrator is living in a city. The Island of Innisfree is a free and potentially productive place full of natural pleasures. The poet longs for a place to interact spontaneously with nature and enjoy the sanctuary it offers.

The narrator is optimistic and certain of the haven that the island offers. From dawn to noon, evening to midnight, peace prevails on the Island. The narrator can hear the lapping sound of the shore at every hour.

This is lyric poetry, as it does not attempt to tell a story, but instead is of a more personal nature. It portrays the poet’s own feelings, state of mind and perception. The poet feels that the peace he longs for is only found on the island.

The poem is a twelve line composition organized in three stanzas with each stanza having four lines called quatrains. Each line is made up of short sentences for easy conveyance of the message.

The poet uses the formal rhyming scheme where the first line rhymes with the third line, while the second line rhymes with the fourth line in each stanza. The rhyming scheme is of the form:

  • Stanza 1 ABAB
  • Stanza 2 CDCD
  • Stanza 3 EFEF

The poet uses stress and repetition to emphasize his urge to leave the city. In example, in line one, the word “go” has been repeated showing that the poet is really determined to exit urban life.

The speaker’s tone is nostalgic, dreamy, and demonstrates a longing for a new place far off from the urban dwelling where he can access freedom and natural peace.

The poem addresses one’s attention to the contrast of the busy, noisy city and a peaceful, quiet, natural environment such as Innisfree. The poet therefore wanted to draw attention to natural environments and the need for all to enjoy it.

Yeats, W. B., & Finneran, R. J. (1991). W.B. Yeats: The Poems. London, Macmillan Press.
Yeats, W. B., & Yeats, W. B. (1991). The Collected Works of W.B. Yeats/The Poems. 1. New York, NY, Macmillan.
Yeats, W. B., & Yeats, W. B. (1991). The Collected Works of W.B. Yeats/The Poems. 1. New York, NY, Macmillan.
Yeats, W. B., & Grall, N. (1987). The Lake Isle of Innisfree. [Cle´ry-Saint-Andre´] (83 rue Mare´chal-Foch), Ed. du Palimpseste.
Yeats, W. B. (1991). The Poems. [S.l.], Macmillan