Why I love ‘He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’

Happy World Poetry Day! To celebrate, I’d like to discuss one of my favourite poems.

He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven – W. B YeatsWorld Poetry Day

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 begins with stunning imagery: if he owned the most precious material imaginable, he would allow his love to walk upon it. Yeats uses the most exquisite symbolism to express the fragility and preciousness of dreams. Although the poem is essentially romantic, I believe it is applicable to any relationship where care and trust is needed. In touching first person, Yeats conveys the vulnerability of sharing one’s hopes, thoughts and aspirations. Second person is only introduced in the final lines with the warning imperative to ‘tread softly’, to be mindful of feelings.

I love its simplicity. Only one word has more than two syllables. The repeated words reinforce his theme. The whole poem could almost be told in those recurrent words: ‘cloths’, ‘light’, ‘dreams’, ‘feet’. The lyrical internal rhymes ‘night and light and the half-light’ are swept along with an insistent conjunction, ‘and’. Word choice throughout is precise: ‘Enwrought’ begins a line brilliantly. Poetic devices are used gently with great subtlety and skill. I like the way it starts with grand imagery and becomes more humble and personal.

To me, this is writing at its best: beautiful words, ordered with care to create a universal, timeless and moving poem.

What’s your favourite poem? Please tell me about it in the comments!

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