Author chases Yeats’ wandering soul to Innisfree

The 150th anniversary of the birth of William Butler Yeats is being celebrated all year long, as I blogged about in February.


Now comes a Travel section piece in The New York Times about Yeats’ poem, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree.” Published in 1888, the poem is about an island in the middle of Lough Gill, County Sligo. It was partially inspired by Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden’s writings, according to the article author Russell Shorto. He continues:

The whole landscape echoes the poem. You realize, sitting there, identifying the sound of the lake water with the deep heart’s core, that the Yeats who wrote the poem does not actually intend to retreat from the world and move to this spot. He is reaching for something. He is aware, at 23, of death and the inexorability of change. He is searching, trying to find his balance, his center. He knows he left it somewhere in his past, as we all have done.

Here’s the full story, and here’s the poem:

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.