“He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” – by W. B. Yeats

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“He Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven”

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,

Enwrought with golden and silver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths

Of night and light and the half light,

I would spread the cloths under your feet:

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

I have spread my dreams under your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

 

William Butler Yeats (1865 – 1939) is widely considered one of the greatest poets of the English language, and  received the 1923 Nobel Prize for Literature.

He was  Irish and became a driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival, a movement against the cultural influences of English rule in Ireland during the Victorian period. He was also deeply involved in politics and in some of his poems,  in the 1920s, reflected a pessimism about the political situation in his country and the rest of Europe.

He studied poetry from an early age when he became fascinated by Irish mythology and folklore, and the occult. But, at the  turn of the 20th century. his poetry grew more physical and realistic and he largely renounced the transcendental beliefs of his youth. However, his  later work found new imaginative inspiration in  spiritualism, in a sort of  return to the vision of his earlier work.

“Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” is one of his poems, published in 1899

The speaker of the poem is the character Aedh, a  pale, sensitive, Romantic figure of a poet. one of the  three archetypal characters of the poet’s myth, collectively known as the principles of the mind.

(The character “Aedh” is replaced in volumes of Yeats’s collected poetry by a more generic “he”.)

The speaker, addressing his beloved says that if he  were a rich man, he would give her the world and all its treasures. These are symbolized by the “heavens’ embroidered cloths”, beautifully  decorated with gold and silver light., in varying colours such as the blue, dim coloured shade and dark colour. He would be willing to spread these cloths under her feet.

Yet, he is poor and only has his dreams, so he  offers them to her. But they are delicate and vulnerable – hence ‘Tread softly’.

The use of repetition  gives musicality and simplicity to  the words, increasing the beauty of this brief poem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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