“The Lake Isle of Innisfree” and “The Lake Isle”

Listen to Robert Pinsky reading “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” and “The Lake Isle.”Slate is observing Poetry Month and dissociating itself from slavish poetry-boosterism by publishing some poems that are negative about poetry: often, as it turns out, the poetry of authors other than the poet.

Ezra Pound wrote a parody of his friend William Butler Yeats’ early poem “The Lake Isle of Innisfree.”  Yeats’ poem reads:


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 honeybee,
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 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.

And Pound responds:


O God, O Venus, O Mercury, patron of thieves,
Give me in due time, I beseech you, a little tobacco-shop,
With the bright little boxes
            piled up neatly on the shelves

And the loose, fragrant cavendish
            and the shag,
And the bright Virginia
            loose under the bright glass cases,
And a pair of scales not too greasy,
And the whores dropping in for a word or two in passing,
For a flip word, and to tidy their hair a bit.

O God, O Venus, O Mercury, patron of thieves,
Lend me a little tobacco-shop,
            or install me in any profession
Save this damn’d profession of writing
            where one needs one’s brains all the time.