“Where do you go to, my lovely, when you’re alone in your bed,” sang Peter Sarstedt in his 1969 song about the inner world of a beautiful socialite. The song’s narrator reflects on the trappings of her success – the clothes, the yachts, the elite to whom she belongs. The repeated question of the refrain suggests there is something lacking in this world of glamour and plenty. The very last refrain of the song reveals the narrator knew this glittering star when she was a ragged child on the streets of Naples. It is to these streets that she returns each night in her dreams. There is no sense that the narrator has retained any contact with the celebrity she has become: it is their shared past, their childhood home, which has forged an unbreakable link between them.
I daresay most people have a place that is the spiritual centre of their lives. I suspect far fewer of us are able to, or choose to, live in this place that means so much. But maybe it is enough to have a haven in our minds, a refuge to sustain us through life’s vicissitudes. W B Yeats writes eloquently about escaping in his imagination to The Lake Isle of Innisfree. A poem of quiet beauty and profound solitude, this evokes a rural idyll and the poet’s longing for its rhythms, its timeless self-sufficiency, its balm. The knowledge of Innisfree lives inside him when he is caught up in the hurly burly of modern life. I hope you enjoy the poem. Where is your Innisfree?
THE LAKE ISLE OF INNISFREE
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.
William Butler Yeats