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 grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
The Inspiration for the Poem
The Lake Isle of Innisfree was written in 1888, when Yeats was only 23 years old, and initially published in “The National Observer” newspaper in 1890. It was subsequently released in book form in The Countess Kathleen and Various Legends and Lyrics (1892). The following year, 1893, it was included in The Rose collection.
The name ‘Innisfree’ is an anglicisation of the Irish term ‘Inis Fraoch’ which means “heather island”. Innisfree is to be found near the southern shore of Lough Gill, in County Sligo, Ireland. The poet craves to leave the fast-paced world behind and get back to a much simpler existence.
Yeats found the inspiration for the poem when he worked in Fleet Street. He reflects:
It’s 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.
Sources: Irish Society, 10th February 1923; and speaking before a reading on 4th October 1932
‘Wattle’ is a composite building method used for making walls and buildings, in which a woven lattice of wooden strips called ‘wattle’ is daubed with a sticky substance, usually made of some form of wet soil.
‘Common linnet’. The common linnet is a little bird belonging to the finch family, Fringillidae. The bird has a fondness for hemp seeds and flax seeds. ‘Flax’ is the English name for the plant from which linen is made.
Flag of Ireland – Saturday 3rd September 1892
Newcastle Chronicle – Saturday 30 March 1895
The works of Yeats were not as yet, and probably never would be, as voluminous as those of either Shakespeare or Victor Hugo, but he could not admit that they were less perfect. In the art of writing a blank-verse play none except Shakespeare and Yeats had succeeded. We must not be afraid of praising Mr Yeats’s poetry too much; we must not hesitate to say there were lyrics in the collected poems as beautiful as any in the world.
We must insist that the lyric entitled “Innisfree” was unsurpassable.
Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette – Saturday 13th May 1899
Hull Daily Mail – Friday 12 May 1899
A trip to the Lake Isle of Innisfree