The Lake Isle of Innisfree Summary
The poet declares that he will arise and attend Innisfree, where he will build a little cabin “of clay and wattles made.” There, he will have nine bean-rows and a beehive and live alone within the glade loud with the sound of bees (“the bee-loud glade”). He says that he will have peace there, for peace drops from “the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings.” Midnight there’s a glimmer, and noon maybe a purple glow and evening is filled with linnet’s wings. He declares again that he will arise and go, for always, night and day, he hears the lake water lapping “with low sounds by the shore.” While he stands within the city, “on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,” he hears the sound within himself, “in the deep heart’s core.”
“The Lake Isle of Innisfree” is written mostly in hexameter, with six stresses in each line, during a loosely iambic pattern. The last line of every four-line stanza shortens the road to tetrameter, with only four stresses: “And live alone within the bee-loud glade.” Each of the three stanzas has an equivalent ABAB rhyme scheme. Formally, this poem is somewhat unusual for Yeats: he rarely worked with hexameter, and each rhyme within the poem may be a full rhyme; there’s no sign of the half-rhymes Yeats often prefers in his later work.
“The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” published in Yeats’s second book of poems, 1893’s The Rose, is one among his first great poems, and one among his most enduring. The tranquil, hypnotic hexameters recreate the rhythmic pulse of the tide. the straightforward imagery of the quiet life the speaker longs to steer, as he enumerates each of its qualities, lulls the reader into his idyllic fantasy, until the penultimate line jolts the speaker—and the reader—back into the truth of his drab urban existence: “While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey.” the ultimate line—“I hear it within the deep heart’s core”—is an important statement for Yeats, not only during this poem but also in his career as an entire. The implication that the truths of the “deep heart’s core” are essential to life is one that might preoccupy Yeats for the remainder of his career as a poet; the struggle to stay faithful the deep heart’s core could also be thought of as Yeats’s primary undertaking as a poet.