Dreams vs Reality, or What Yeats and I Have in Common (sort of)

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.

When my spouse and I lived in North Carolina, we frequented a pub called W. B. Yeats. It’s closed now, the Internet tells me, but in the late 90’s and early aughts they poured a good Guinness. Or rather, the one tall fellow with the longish brown hair poured a good Guinness. When any of the other bartenders was working, we’d order something else, but when floppy-haired guy was there, it was Guinness, and it was good.

When we finally returned to North Carolina for the first time since we conceived our daughter there in 2004, we didn’t visit the former home of the Yeats pub. Instead we spent four days in Asheville. I loved it there just as I expected I would and in some ways hoped I wouldn’t.

Like the poet Yeats and Innisfree, his idealized, Walden-inspired refuge, my view of life in Asheville is not very realistic. Yeats would have needed more than nine rows of beans and a bee hive to sustain himself, and I would probably find that tourists, vintage clothing shops, and Malaprop’s Bookstore would lose their luster after a while.

That last one’s probably not a good example—I’m not sure any decent book shop could lose my interest, and Malaprop’s is far beyond decent—but the fact remains that there are real-life reasons to abandon my Asheville dream.

But in quiet morning moments when I’m walking through my neighborhood and the clouds stack up just right so that it looks like there’s a line of hazy mountains looming on the horizon, I smell the woods and feel the fog on my cheek even in the middle of suburban New England. The mountains call to my heart, despite the protests of my brain.

The Mountain City of Asheville

inspired by William Butler Yeats’s Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Asheville,
And a downtown loft buy there, filled with local pottery and art:
A corner coffee shop will I have there, a book store just down the hill;
And each morning anew I’ll start.

And I shall feel at peace there, for peace through the mountains rolls,
Roaming with the fog of morning to the sunset’s fading glow;
There midnight sings with indie tunes, and noon with bluegrass barcaroles,
And evening full of pleasures slow.

I will arise and go now, for always day and night
I hear the tree tops rustling in the breeze that I adore;
While I drive along suburban roads, or the Massachusetts Pike,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

Where is your Innisfree/Asheville? Do you love it for what it is or for what you imagine it to be?

(Note: Since it was first published, this post has been edited significantly to reflect the suggestions of my spouse.)

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