“The Lake Isle of Innisfree” (1890)
William Butler Yeats, (born June 13, 1865, Sandymount, Dublin, Ireland—died January 28, 1939, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France), Irish poet, dramatist, and prose writer, one of the greatest English-language poets of the 20th century. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923.
“The Lake Isle of Innisfree” Analysis
William Butler Yeats wrote “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” one of his most famous and widely-anthologized works, in 1888. The poem gets its title from a very small, uninhabited island that sits in Lough Gill, a lake in Yeats’s home county of Sligo, Ireland. The speaker of this pastoral poem longs to build a simple life on Innisfree, finding peace through communion with nature. However, it becomes clear that ties to city life prevent the speaker from realizing this dream. The young poet’s fixation on questions of spirituality and Irish identity is felt in this poem, which also contains the sort of archaic language that he would later abandon and decry. Following an ABAB rhyme scheme and loosely iambic meter, the poem’s seemingly neat, concise structure belies its complex networks of rhythm and sound, which are responsible for much of its visceral impact and enduring popularity.
Discussion Questions for “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”
Do you think the speaker will ever make it to Innisfree? Why or why not?
What do you think is so terrible about wherever the speaker is now that makes him so itching to leave?
From the description of the ideal Innisfree, do you think the speaker has ever been there? Why?
What, if anything, do you think is keeping the speaker from reaching Innisfree? Why hasn't he already up and gone?
Do you think the speaker is really serious about wanting to go to Innisfree, or do you think this is just a passing daydream?
What's with the form of the poem? Do the quatrains (four-line stanzas) and rhymes contribute to the meaning in any way?
Why does the speaker want peace so badly? And why does peace come "dropping slow"? If he's so hungry for some quiet time, why can't he just make that happen in the city?
(Questions from Schmoop.com)
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