Slouching Toward Innisfree

Which bee-loud glade was that again?


| September-October 1996


The one thing I really wanted to do during my trip to Ireland was to stand near the Lake Isle of Innisfree and recite the William Butler Yeats poem concerning same.

My younger daughter was with me. I thought that this direct encounter with poetry might be instructive for her. “I owe it all”—she would tell reporters later, upon receiving the Nobel Prize in literature—“to that moment on the banks of the Lough Gill when my late father read out loud those majestic words that still . . .” And so forth.

I had thought that Innisfree might be hard to find—it is, after all, a symbol of remote rural harmony—but Yeats is something of a cottage industry in county Sligo, and the way is clearly marked.

“Lake Isle of Innisfree,” the sign said. “Danger: Traffic entering from right.”

As we drove, my wife recited the poem, and the three of us discussed it. That took about 45 seconds; it’s not what you’d call a poem rich in subtext.

“Sounds like Yeats needed a vacation,” said my daughter.