Aedh Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven
by William Butler Yeats
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.”
The poem is incredibly rich in imagery, passion, and beauty. It shows that only eight lines are enough to convey such intense feelings of sorrow and desire. In the first-half of the poem the poet splashed hints of colour in our minds: gold (a sunset and the sun itself) and silver (a wonderful overcast sky and the stars). The third line paints the colours of midday – ‘the blue,’ of early morning, or late afternoon – ‘the dim,’ and evening – ‘the dark cloths.’ The fourth line wonderfully shades the scene with the light-intensity from the three periods of the heavens, which he describes in the previous line.
The second-half of the poem begins addressing the woman of his affections, perhaps Maud Gonne whom he met on 7 December 1898. Yeats shows the extreme vulnerability in the last line when he tells her how easily she could break his dreams and Yeats himself, if she treats his affections with anything but care and caution.
Maud Gonne, the beautiful, brainy feminist Irish revolutionary was an object of Yeats’s infatuation across five decades. When Maud Gonne and WBY met on 7 December 1898 she kissed him on the lips for the first time, and then told him the truth about her life. The following day she told him that she regretted having kissed him but continued to tell him the story of her life in greater detail. WBY experienced such emotional turmoil at what he heard that he claimed he felt “like a very battered ship with the masts broken off at the stump.”
Nonetheless, on 18 December he proposed to her again, and once again she refused to accept. She returned to Paris on 19 December, and WBY spent a miserable December and January wondering if he should follow her. He finally arrived in Paris at the end of January 1899 where initially she refused to meet him. Though she told him more about her life, he found her cold and distant during his stay, and he left Paris in mid-February depressed by her rejections and suffering from a cold.