“The Lake Isle of Innisfree” Analysis of Symbolism & Meaning

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Jul 21st, 2020


The following is an explication of the poem “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” by William Butler Yeats. This analysis of “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” will discuss the poem, line by line, while explaining the meaning of literary elements involved for critical appreciation.

According to Capuano (146), “Instead of establishing a distance between speaker and reader, Yeats fuses the reader’s perspective into the speaker’s memory of a detached and physically separate island.” Indeed, the poem is capable of guiding the reader through a tranquil land from memory. The objective of this explication is to make the meaning of “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” clear.


Yeats had the “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” published in 1892, and the final published version of the poem is as follows:

‘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 honeybee,

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 gray,

I hear it in the deep heart’s core.’ (Yeats para. 1-3).

The first stanza takes the reader from ordinary reality to the speaker’s imagination. Symbolism in “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” is not evident in the first line as it sets the stage for the rest of the poem. It does this while showing the reader the central idea that the author intends to travel to Innisfree (but is not there at the beginning of the poem).

The second line begins to add imagery to the poem, and further introduces the setting of the land in question, but here in terms of the speaker’s residence. Introducing the residence is naturally essential because it is central to the speaker’s perspective, and the speaker also describes the creation of the home.

With only two lines of the poem, Yeats can take the reader into his memory, which (in combination with the title) implies the location is serene, full of nature, and tranquil without explicitly saying so until later in the poem. The third line adds more imagery, and the solitude of the speaker and extent of natural lifestyle is confirmed with this (and the fourth) line.

From this stanza, the author informs the reader of his desire for a peaceful lifestyle, an escape, and the blessings of nature, and further confirms his ability to experience these things in a home he has established for himself on the Lake Isle of Innisfree.

The second stanza begins to dive deeper into the speaker’s memory as his desire for peace and the extent of the tranquility there. The first line asserts that peace is entirely possible at the location, but implies that it may take a while to come, possibly because of his current state in his current location.

In the next line, he states that peace is present (in the location, not immediately within himself) in the morning and continuing throughout the surrounding nature all day. In the following third and fourth lines of the second stanza, the reader is informed of the nature of the imagery in the location, which includes colorful overcasts, flourishing wildlife, and glimmering night skies.

The second stanza confirms the extent of the natural imagery (and sensations that were only briefly mentioned and implied in the first stanza), while the author further claims that these are capable of bringing him peace.

With the rejuvenating nature of the location now confirmed, as well as the author’s enjoyment of it, the third stanza begins to pull away from the memory (which is a sort of daydreaming of the positive and stimulating aspects). The first line abruptly brings the reader back to reality and the author’s current intentions, and the second line brings in more imagery that motivates him to go to the location.

The lake is finally mentioned in this line, and the sound of it is implied to be as or more stimulating than the imagery in the second stanza. The author then confirms his longing for nature and desires to dream with the last two lines, claiming in conclusion that the aspects of his current and modern world cannot fill the void in the core of his heart, while the lake isle can.

Closing Comments

Yeats described some aspects of his writing process with “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) (Yeats “Origin” para. 1).

As is clear from the analysis essay on “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”, this poem shows the theme of a man’s longing to escape into nature for peace and reconnection. The entire poem is based on memory, as the poem further illustrates the power of a man revealing positive points from memory alone.

Works Cited

Capuano, Peter. “Imagination and Recollection: The Power and Process of Memory in ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree.’”The South Carolina Review. 29 Apr. 2011. Web.

Yeats, William Butler. “The Lake Isle of Innisfree.” Corpus Christi, TX: Javelina Press, 2000.

Yeats, William Butler. “Origin of ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree.’” 29 Apr. 2011. Web.

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