Critical Review: The Lake Isle of Innisfree Poem

Reader-Response criticism is what I find myself often doing naturally when reading a poem; I have an assumption that all poetry is from the authors experience and that in some ways the poem is relating to the reader, otherwise why would they read it. Reader-Response criticism “determines what kind of reader or what community of readers the work implies…” (Delahoyde). This poem and using this critical approach I noticed more that I needed to know what era it was written in to fully understand what audience was reading it, and who the author himself was. What did him experience or where was he from that affected this poems meaning! In W. B. Yeats biography it stated that he was involved in “a Celtic Revival…which sought to promote the spirit of Ireland’s native heritage” (“The Fisherman” 2017) which would explain why this poem seems to speak of land and have a sense of pride in it. “While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey, I hear it in the deep heart’s core” (Yeats, lines 13-14), the last line is a testament to how deeply this area or land meant to Yeats.


New Criticism is the absolute opposite; “They insist that the meaning of a text should not be confused with the authors intention’s nor…its effects on the reader” (Delahoyde). Using this approach I had to focus more on the actual words, how they were uses and what words were chosen as well as the imagery that reading the poem developed as it was read. “Imagery is words that address all of the senses” (Muller, Gilbert and Williams), and majority of the words made me think of the smell, the views and even the temperature and sounds associated with each line of the poem. “There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow, And evening full of the linnet’s wings” (Yeats, lines 9-10), these lines make me want to solely visualize this purple glow at noon in the sky, imagine how midnight is when all is quiet and there is nothing but said “glimmer”. The last line I am assuming this bug, this “linnet” in my own way without looking up what one is and it just adds to the visual interpretation of the poem. I am objective with this approach and have no historical background nor do I impose my own experiences in it to assess how this poem affects me or other readers.

I definitely think that both approaches work well for this poem but the better approach would be the Reader-Response criticism critical approach. The poem has so much of Yeats, in my opinion, after the reader actually has some knowledge of what era Yeats was in and how his writing came to be as it is. Knowing what he was going through and where his mind was during the time he wrote this poem makes the poem have so much more meaning and make more sense.