This poem was first published in the collection ‘The Rose’ in 1893, at the early stage of Yeats’ life. At the time when Yeats was writing this poem, Ireland was divided into two sections; those who supported the British reign and those who wished for Ireland to be independent. Yeats had friends on both sides, but he fell in love with one who has particularly against the idea of British reign. One of Yeats’ main interests was myth and Celtic poetry. The Lake Isle of Innisfree illustrates a dream he has of a beautiful natural place on the west side of Ireland. In this respect, Yeats is very similar to Wordsworth.
The first line is a reference to the Bible (the Song of Solomon.) Like the spirit after death, rising to heaven. The poem was popularly believed to be a suicide poem. Maybe Innisfree is where he would like to be buried, like the old Celtic kings. However, unlike Solomon, who was united with the Shulamite Maid, Yeats was still longing for his soul to find its completion. He wishes to go to Innisfree to live a pastoral, free life. Even the name of the place he desires to go deliberately contains the word ‘free’.
He will build his shelter himself, the reader knows this by reading from the second line onwards, for everything will be natural honest and solid It will be build out of wood and mud and clay. The clay could be another reference to the bible, this time to do with Adam’s creation. Yeats has a dream of being like a second Adam, in a garden of paradise. However, it is still only a dream, and would not be feasible or practical in reality. The nine bean-rows are significant because of the nine muses were the handmaidens of Apollo. They symbolize the sustainable, poetic existence. Beans are a good vegetable to grow, as they can be cooked and stored without any complexity. They contain heaps of protein, and if required, one could live on them. ‘A hive for the honey bee’ each bee has its own social hierarchy, just as humans too. Each type of bee has its own job and purpose. They represent order and society, they very things that Yeats wants to evade. He wants to avoid these parts of human life, but they tag on with him in the form of bees.
In the second stanza, morning is personified as a woman hiding behind a veil of glimmer and glow. It creates a very beautiful and peaceful image. It is also a metaphor, as there are not really any veils in the sky, but it is mist, which looks like veils. In Europe and China, crickets are considered lucky. As everyone knows, they famously sing in the summer time. Overall, they give off an optimistic, hopeful image. ‘there midnight’s all a glimmer.’ It glimmers because there is no chaos from the busy city to hide them. This increases the idea that he is far away from civilization. The sky is dark and bright and very deep blue. The colour is more intense than it would be in the city. The ‘purple glow’ represents royalty. Although that symbolizes wealth and eternity, ironically, he will be living in a clay hut and will only be rich in terms of nature. The dream is unrealistic and only really feasible in his mind. In the last line of this stanza, he talks about a linnet, a British song bird. It stands for the Celtic style of life, and the beauty of the countryside. The line uses assonance, the repetition of the vowel sounds.
The final stanza contains uses of repetition of the first stanza, ‘I will arise and go now,’ The shore is a boundary, possibly symbolizing the dividing edge between life and death. ‘I hear the lake water lapping,’ on the island contrasts with ‘roadway’ and ‘pavements grey’ in the busy city in the next line .The famous lake in King Arthur is associated with death, but there is always a connection with his beautiful pastoral dream. But the line has a somewhat melancholy feel air about it and a dark suggestion of death. The deep heart is both personal and cultural. Hi deep heart contains the pastoral dream of escape, but the heart of our culture revolves around literature, art and music. The pavements resemble the road towards death and the road through history. It is grey in colour, dull in contrast with nature. A German writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said “Grey s the opposite of life itself, imagined in green and gold.”
This poem is often considered as a suicide poem that Yeats wrote, but this cannot really be proved, though there are some strong references to death. Throughout the poem, Yeats explores the peace and tranquility of his haunt, Innisfree.