Poem introduction

I am going to begin with a poem of mine called 'The Lake Isle of Innisfree' because if you know anything about me you will expect me to begin with it. It is the only poem of mine which is very widely known. When I was a young lad in the town of Sligo I read Thoreau's essays and wanted to live in a hut on an island in Lough Gill called Innisfree which means 'Heather Island'. I wrote the poem in London when I was about twenty three: one day in The Strand I heard a little tinkle of water and saw in a shop window a little jet of water balancing a ball on the top - it was an advertisement, I think, for cooling drinks - but it set me thinking of Sligo and lake water. I think there is only one obscurity in the poem - I speak of noon as a 'purple glow' - I must have meant by that the reflection of heather in the water.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

from The Collected Poems of W B Yeats edited by Richard J Finneran (Macmillan 1991), reprinted by permission of A P Watt Ltd on behalf of Michael B Yeats. Recording made on 28 February 1935, used by permission of the BBC.

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William Butler Yeats

W. B. Yeats

1The Stare's Nest by my Window


2The Second Coming


3Sailing to Byzantium


4Leda and the Swan


5The Wild Swans


6The Song of Wandering Aengus


7Long Legged Fly