The Inner Reader
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.
Yeats’ poem is about as intimate a meditation as any poem can be. We bring such works inside ourselves quickly and, because we do, reflecting on such works can yield interesting discoveries for us concerning the inner reader. Every time I read this poem off the page, I recognize the inner reader as having my own voice, though the particular version of my voice changes from reading to reading. For example, if I’m anxious, the inner voice is calm and even toned. If I’m a bit blue, somehow the meter becomes more pronounced in my inner reading. Though not with all poems, the inner voice is always unmistakably mine with this poem.
What does your inner reader sound like? If Yeats’ poem does not do the trick, what poems do? How does your inner reader resemble you? If you write poems, would you say that the inner reader you’ve identified is also your inner writer?
And, to hear an outer reader (no less than Yeats himself) go ahead to the reading at Poets.org and click on “play.” How does Yeats’ reading of his poem match up with your inner reader?
Once, I spent about 4 hours of an Irish morning, roaming the perimeter of Lough Gill (the lake of the poem) in County Sligo, searching for the precise spot on which Yeats must have been standing when the poem must have occurred to him. There was no stone or landmark to be sought, and I didn’t know what I was looking for. At some point, however, I found myself standing on a concrete boat landing. It was then that I noticed the lapping sounds of the waters upon the concrete precisely matched the tempo of my heartbeat. Turns out, my inner reader had been there quite a time before I arrived and was thrilled that I’d caught up.