Monday, November 13, 2017

The Lake Isle of Innisfree – W B Yeats

William Butler Yeats was born on 13th June 1869. His father was John Butler Yeats, a renowned artist. When Yeats was young his family moved to London from his native Ireland where they thought John Yeats would be able to further his career. 

At first the Yeats children were educated at home by their mother who entertained them with stories from Irish folklore. 

Yeats’ early works were based on Irish lore. (The Celtic twilight - 1892) in his 40’s his style of writing changed as a result of his association with the poets like Ezra Pound and his involvement in the Irish politics. As a result his style became more modern, his language became more dignified and themes more direct. (In the Seven Woods, Responsibilities)

Yeats was a driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival and Abbey Theater. He served as a senator in the first Irish Parliament. In 1923 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. W B Yeats passed away on 28th January 1939.

The poem, "The Lake Isle of Innisfree," belongs to the middle period of Yeats’ poetry. By this time Yeats had been an active member of the Irish National Movement for a number of years. The political situation I Ireland was very tense. He had also suffered from the rejection of Maud Gonne. The sensitive poet in Yeats suffered horribly from both. Therefore, he yearned for some peace from the turmoil. The lake isle of Innisfree represented peace for the poet. The memory of the isle beckoned to him offering reprieve from the hectic life he led.

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made 

In the first stanza he says he would arise and go to Innisfree. There he is going to build a cabin and farm, a dream many people living in cities have. The poet wants to live close to nature devoid of the restrictive trappings of the society that weighs on his artistic spirit. 

In the second stanza he discusses lack of peace and quietness in his life. So he is dreaming of going to Innisfree to find freedom. There he would live listening to the songs of crickets and admiring the changing colour of the sky. 

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 wing
In the third stanza he once again says that he would go to Innisfree, a memory he carries in his heart. The memory is so powerful he is able to summon it even while he is standing on the roadway or on a grey pavement. 

I will arise and go now, foe always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore:
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavement grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

The poem has three stanzas, four lines each. The lines rhyme: “abab”. Language is simple. The topic “The Lake Isle of Inisfree” stands for the age-old human dream of wanting to runaway to a deserted island when someone is going through a rough time. 

In the second stanza the poet uses a beautiful metaphor – “veil of the morning”. Yeats also uses inversion to make the poem more dramatic -  “ And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;” When describing the isle the poet has used happy bright images. In contrast the city is described using gloomy adjectives: "And live alone in the bee-loud glade” and “While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavement grey”. The theme is the ability the nature has to bring happiness and contentment to people.

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