The Lake Isle of Innisfree

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Top:William Butler Yeats, 1899-1919
Bottom: D. Farrelly

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.

2. 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.

3. 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've met some folks who say that I'm a dreamer,
And I've no doubt there's truth in what they say,
But sure a body's bound to be a dreamer
When all the things he loves are far away.
And precious things are dreams unto an exile
They take him o'er the land across the sea,
Especially when it happens he's an exile
From that dear lovely Isle of Innisfree.
And when the moonlight peeps across the rooftops
Of this great city, wondrous tho' it be,
I scarcely feel its wonder or its laughter
I'm once again back home in Innisfree.

2. I wander o'er green hills thro' dreamy valleys
And find a peace no other land could know,
I hear the birds make music fit for angels
And watch the rivers laughing as they flow.
And then into a humble shack I wander
My dear old home, and tenderly behold,
The folks I love around the turf fire gathered
On bended knees their rosary is told.
But dreams don't last tho' dreams are not forgotten
And soon I'm back to stern reality,
But, tho' they paved the footways here with gold dust
I still would choose the Isle of Innisfree.


Origin of "The Lake Isle of Innisfree"
by W. B. Yeats, from his Autobiography

I had [in London] various women friends on whom I would call towards five o'clock mainly to discuss my thoughts that I could not bring to a man without meeting some competing thought, but partly because their tea and toast saved my pennies for the bus ride home; but with women, apart from their intimate exchanges of thought, I was timid and abashed. I was sitting on a seat in front of the British Museum feeding pigeons when a couple of girls sat near and began enticing my pigeons away, laughing and whispering to one another, and I looked straight in front of me, very indignant, and presently went into the Museum without turning my head towards them. Since then I have often wondered if they were pretty or merely very young. Sometimes I told myself very adventurous love-stories with myself for hero, and at other times I planned out a life of lonely austerity, and at other times mixed the ideals and planned a life of lonely austerity mitigated by periodical lapses. I had still the ambition, formed in Sligo in my teens, of living in imitation of Thoreau on Innisfree, a little island in Lough Gill, and when walking through Fleet Street very homesick I heard a little tinkle of water and saw a fountain in a shop-window which balanced a little ball upon its jet, and began to remember lake water. From the sudden remembrance came my poem "Innisfree," my first lyric with anything in its rhythm of my own music. I had begun to loosen rhythm as an escape from rhetoric and from that emotion of the crowd that rhetoric brings, but I only understood vaguely and occasionally that I must for my special purpose use nothing but the common syntax. A couple of years later I could not have written that first line with its conventional archaism -- "Arise and go" -- nor the inversion of the last stanza.

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