A while ago, I sat back in my chair, and back in time, to listen to one of my favorite poets read a few of his poems to me. "I will arise and go now, and go to Inisfree" William Butler Yeats reached out with his priestly voice from 1932. My tea unsipped, sat cupped in my hand. My breath held, maybe for fear that if I let it out it would betray the cold presence of a ghost.
I've read that same poem a million times; it was drilled into me years ago for exams in school. I loved it then—maybe because I too wanted to arise and go now and go to Inisfree, or anywhere. How I wish a teacher could have played us a recording of Yeats reading it himself.
This morning I listened to a borrowed record, The Poems of William Butler Yeats; Read by William Butler Yeats, Siobhan McKenna, and Michael MacLiammoir, and the still, grey quality of the recording hinted at rain. Hard not to wonder if Yeats, with his interest in mysticism, spiritualism, and occultism, didn't know how to impress his whole stormy being—not just his voice—into this vinyl record.
As April is National Poetry Month, I thought you might like to get caught in a little Yeats, too. I found the exact recording I was listening to this morning on YouTube (of course it was there!), and while it lacks the intimacy of hearing the record in person, you get a sense of the rhythm and music. Read along with Yeats:
Note: I'm hooked now on Spoken Arts recordings, though they are hard to come by in record stores and online. This past weekend I started my collection with recordings of Robert Frost and Dylan Thomas. Now, I need to find some Yeats of my own. Vinyl Rehab has a section dedicated to Spoken Arts, with current offerings including James Joyce; Soliloquies of Molly and Leopold Bloom Read By Siobhan McKenna and E.G. Marshall and William Butler Yeats; Five One Act Plays Read by Siobhan McKenna and Cyril Cusack.
The Lake Isle of Inisfree by 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 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 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 gray,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.