Is it Tuesday? Every Tuesday a new poem appears in the box and on the blog.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Poem 5--William Butler Yeats

I have so far resisted putting any of the "old guy" poets in my box.  But this week's poem, "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" has special meaning for me right now.  It's one of Yeats' earlier poems (from The Rose, 1893) and, unusual for Yeats, is written mostly in iambic hexameter.   


By William Butler Yeats

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 honeybee,
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.

I am drawn to the sense of longing in the poem--the speaker's desire to be in beauty, to find peace in the natural world.  At the poem's conclusion, we see that he is imagining or remembering Innisfree as he stands in the middle of the city.  He doesn't, in the poem, ever actually go to Innisfree, an interesting realization that leaves the reader unsettled a bit at the end.  I love the words themselves, too:  bee-loud glade, deep heart's core, a-glimmer, a purple glow.  The images are comforting and the sounds soft, full of long vowels that slow the reader down, draw out the pleasure of the world being described.

Sometimes poems such as this can be off-putting to the modern reader.  We can get caught up in questions (what are wattles?  linnets?).  But if we read past the strangenesses and unfamiliarities, we find a situation to which we can all relate:  feeling tired with the circumstances of our daily lives, we seek escape into beauty and nature. 

My friend is dying.  I brought her this poem yesterday and she received it with gladness.  Maybe she will arise and go soon, and I can only hope she finds such peace as Yeats sought at Innisfree.

For me, poems do what the language of daily life cannot.  They articulate the experience of life in ways that every day language isn't designed for.  When we look closely at the best poems, we find our own lives and experiences reflected back to us.  We find access to our most vulnerable selves, our deep heart's core.

Here's a link to a biography on Yeats:

And here's a great link to Yeats himself reading the poem:

No comments:

Post a Comment