The Lake Isle of Innisfree

The Lake Isle of Innisfree
W. B. Yeats

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
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket
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.

Source: The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats (1989)

When I read this I am taken back to a time I never knew but can imagine. I feel nostalgia for a place that once existed but might no more in that exact way. The lake really exists as Lough Gill in counties Sligo and Leitrim in Ireland–so this is one place I want to go in June. And the trail below looks like a great running trail, doesn’t it? It’s the Slish Wood Forest Trail. While only 3k, from what I’ve read it hooks up with a 74k route. Yeats also mentions the woods as the Sleuth Wood in “The Stolen Child.”
By Oliver Dixon, CC BY-SA 2.0,

The woods were once vast with oaks, Sitka spruce, and Norway spruce, but now only pockets remain as the forests were cleared during World War 2. Yeats wrote many poems about the physical Ireland, which captures a long-ago essence prior to development and destruction. Even he, however, stood on pavement to reminisce. His nature writing is some of my favorite and I’d like to visit more places mentioned in his poetry. I want to run in these places.

I had an experience over the weekend that is hard to describe. I went to a small park on Commercial to volunteer for the Great Climate Race, and while I love Commercial Drive–for its commerce is very diverse and old compared to modern corporate stuff, I felt very alone at the Earth Day celebrations. Not alone as in lonely but alone as in feeling disconnected–not with the people I talked with but with the overall sense of environmentalism these days. I have been to many such events, and they are very well-meaning. A hobo was walking around and came up to me and said, with a little twinkle in his eye, “These kinds of things are just feel-good events. Environmentalists feel good, but nothing gets done.” I didn’t agree with him, just smiled as he went on his way, but sometimes I do feel we are just a drop in the bucket. It’s a solitary feeling. I used to be so inspired by standing up to save the natural world. At other times I get sad because we are a dog-eat-dog world, and that is in our nature. It seems to be the way of the world.

Today I had a chat with coworkers about the need to get out away from the city, and lo and behold one of our professors came in–and when I told him of reading the Yeats poem earlier, he recited it to me, word for word in almost a grandfatherly voice–a pleasant one. It reminded me of my father reciting poetry long ago.

So at times my water drips more softly, and I retreat to somewhere inside because it is impossible to truly feel positive and energetic 100% of the time. What I really want is to retire from this world–not in death but to a cabin by a lake, where I shouldn’t see any reason to go from too far, ever.


  1. Gosh, I know exactly how you feel. Several times this year I’ve caught myself thinking “I wish I could get away from it all. Be sheltered somewhere in nature and just block out what we’re doing to it.” I must say, it helps to know I’m not alone in feeling this. I know I’m not alone, of course, but often we don’t express our deepest fears so we end up feeling isolated… Perhaps these words will help:

    “I’m here to ask you to reject the notion there are forces we can’t control… Reject pessimism, cynicism and know that progress is possible. Progress is not inevitable, it requires struggle, discipline and faith.”

    – Barack Obama

  2. Thank you, Jessica. I think we all feel this way at times and it ultimately challenges us to “light a candle in the darkness”.

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