Peace Comes Dropping Slow

Innisfree_Iridescent Waves

As the summer solstice approaches, when the sun seems to pause in the sky before beginning the long arc toward winter, I find myself with some still moments, a quietness within. And so, “peace comes dropping slow” and poetry resonates in my mind.

I had the pleasure of immersing myself in “The Lake Island of Innisfree” during a cold March, when summer seemed far away. Now its words are a lovely midsummer’s dream, playing over again in my memory.

This poem was commissioned to be given as a gift to a young man who learned it as a child in Ireland, where it is memorized during school days, making it one of William Butler Yeats’ best known poems. Written when he was quite young and inspired by Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, he was not overly fond of it in his later years, but it is nevertheless deeply loved.


I wrote it out many, many times, not only to warm up my calligraphy hand, but because I loved being with these words. In the end, I decided a simple italic was best, and my elaborate plans to represent waves lapping on the shore resolved easily into shining wavy lines, which universally read as water. An iridescent blue Golden fluid acrylic in a ruling pen seemed best, and, for the letters, Dr. Martin’s Bleedproof White in a Tape #1 size nib, on a 16 by 20 inch dark blue piece of Ingres paper I’ve had in my flat file forever, waiting for just this use. I considered “bouncing” the letters along the line, but in the end the slow rhythm of waves lapping on a shore induced the calmer presentation .

Innsifree_Italic Trials

As the great Wheel of the year processes through the longest day in the northern hemisphere, some of us will go to the waters. The ocean, the rivers, the lakes, the creeks, will all be especially honored and loved during the hot days of summer.


The Lake Isle of Innisfree

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 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.

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Jane Brenner 06/17/2015, 8:16 am

    This is such a pleasure to read–both the Yeats and your words about the process of designing the commission. One thing is missing: the size.

    Thanks for your thoughtful words which make a favorite poem even more meaningful!

    • Cari 06/17/2015, 8:42 am

      Oops, forgot that, Jane, thanks for asking! The finished size is 16 x 20 inches. You can see I left very generous margins.

  • Alice Young 06/17/2015, 10:53 am

    What incredible words: peace comes dropping slow. I can see why you loved being with them. The whole thing is just lovely – you’ve captured the sense of the poem. On a hectic morning, I’m reminded of peace and calm.

    • Cari 06/17/2015, 10:58 am

      Thank you, Alice, I’m pleased you like it. High praise!

  • Sarah 06/17/2015, 1:23 pm

    Lovely Cari! I memorized The Lake Isle of Innisfree in my youth by singing along with the musical version of it as performed by Judy Collins. I still can’t read it to this day without singing it in my mind.

    • Cari 06/17/2015, 1:46 pm

      I somehow missed hearing this, Sarah, listening to it now on YouTube. There is nothing like a tune to make memory come easily. Thank you for sharing this. I only knew it from my college-era Complete Works of Yeats.

  • Michele 06/30/2015, 7:32 pm

    Oh, that’s lovely! I was lucky enough to go to the Arran Islands (Inishmore, Inishmaan, and Inisheer) a few years ago; they have much of the same solitary beauty as Yeats describes on Innisfree, and I felt strongly how restorative it would be to spend months there alone with the wind, the water, and the birds. Beautifully done.

    • Cari 06/30/2015, 8:06 pm

      Nice to hear from you again, Michele, glad you liked it.

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