Longing for Innisfree

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For weeks now, there has been silence – the stationary pen that only marks the page of my journal when I nod off in bed. Some call it writer’s block; I call it “the dehydrated soul groping about in desert landscapes.” I feel like one of T. S. Eliot’s hollow men. I am a dried branch cut off from the vine.

And then today, I heard it. I heard the water lapping at the shores of Innisfree.

In the midst of grading student presentations, answering emails, and planning tomorrow’s lessons (among many other things), I came across The Lake Isle of Innisfree by William Butler Yeats. I have taught the poem in the past, especially as part of my poetry unit on seeking the ideal life through nature, where William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Gerard Manley Hopkins feature prominently. But none of those authors captures the longing that I feel quite like this gem by Yeats.

Like the speaker in Yeats’ poem, I, too, am simply repeating my desire, speaking in the future tense – “I will arise and go now” – and yet these words have sparked no real action. I have not carved out time to write poetry, sow thoughts, or savor the sweet soundtrack awaiting me when I simply open my window. Still, “night and day / I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore” while I sit at my desk, or walk down the gray-tiled hallways of my school. With this post, I rise…

The Lake Isle of Innisfree – William Butler 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 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.

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

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