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Wb Yeats Lake Isle Of Innisfree Analysis Essay

“The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” a twelve-line poem divided into three quatrains, is a study in contrasts. The most obvious contrast is between two places: one rural (identified in the title and described throughout much of the poem), the other (alluded to only in the second-to-last line)—by implication—urban.

Innisfree is a small island at the eastern end of Lough Gill in County Sligo, Ireland. William Butler Yeats spent part of nearly every year in Sligo while growing up; he often walked out from Sligo town to Lough Gill. His father having read to him from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden (1854), he daydreamed (as he says in The Trembling of the Veil, 1922, incorporated into his Autobiography, 1965) of living “a life of lonely austerityin imitation of Thoreau on Innisfree.” In 1890, while living in London, he was “walking through Fleet Street very homesick [when] I heard a little tinkle of water and saw a fountain in a shop-windowand began to remember lake water. From the sudden remembrance came my poem Innisfree.”

Yeats imagines escaping from the city to the solitude and peace of a pastoral retreat, there to live a simple life, close to nature. The first stanza states his intention and provides a prospectus for the home he will make for himself, specifying the rustic construction for his cabin and exactly how many rows of beans he will plant. The second stanza, more fancifully imagining what...

(The entire section is 426 words.)

This is a poem of strong rhythms and unexpected stresses which combine with caesura to produce long lines that surge forward then loosen off, a little bit like the waters washing around Innisfree.

A complex musicality adds to the idea of a rural idyll filled with birdsong, bee and cricket sounds. Contrast this with the tension induced by varied syntax and stress, reflecting the slight anxiety the speaker feels about life in the city, as his vision pulls him away.

Fundamentally built of hexameter and tetrameter, with six feet establishing the longer lines and four feet in the shorter, there are important variations in certain lines that merit closer study.

Structual repeats help reinforce the idea that the speaker wishes to get away from the grey prison of the city and escape to the dream.

Line 1

Let's focus on each line. The first line can be read as a straightforward iambic:

  • I will / arise / and go now, / and go / to Inn / isfree,

This works as an iambic hexameter, with an extra beat before the comma, the punctuated caesura. The third foot becomes an amphibrach (u x u).

Yeats gave emphasis to the go now when he read out his poem on radio:

  • I will / arise / and go now, / and go / to Inn / isfree,

This still scans as iambic but the third foot becomes a bacchius (u x x). Yeats placed great importance on the rhythm of his poem, which was traditional at the time, and read it in a slow, regimented way. Nowadays, people are not so focused on the detailed technicalities of stress and beat, but it is vital to remember that the rhythm still counts.

  • Note the repetition of and gowhich completely alters the pace of the line after the caesura, slowing it down. The long vowel of the nowalso has the same effect. It's as if there is a sigh as the speaker pauses to recollect his initial thoughts, before moving on to the actual place he intends to journey.

Line 2

The second line again sees seven syllables take the reader to the caesura, with further information given by the speaker. He wants to build a small cabin with clay and wattles (a framework of branches/sticks woven together and covered in clay or cement to help in building walls):

  • And a small /cabin / build there, / of clay / and wat / tles made;

The second clause of this line is regular iambic, the first clause a mix of anapaest (u u x), and two trochees (x u). Again, there is the emphasis on moving forward, with strong stress offset by long vowels, and the second clause slowing everything down.

Line 3

As the poem progresses, the speaker builds up the imagery, creating a wish-list in readiness for life on this distant island. He will need sustenance, so wants to grow fresh food and have honey:

Ninebean- / rows will / I have there,/ a hive / for the hon / ey-bee,

Note the anapaest among the iambs in the latter clause, and the opening spondee.

Line 4

The fourth line is a tetrameter, concluding the previous three lines as the speaker declares that he will live a solo life on this dream island:

And live / alone / in the bee- /loudglade.

Iambic with an anapaest and spondee. The soft alliteration and long vowels bring the first quatrain to a peaceful yet pulsing end.