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He wishes for the cloths of heaven -- William Butler Yeats

Guest poem submitted by Tina George:
(Poem #597) 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
I simply love this verse...I cannot think of any other lines that better
express my deepest thoughts about the question one so often searches for the
answers to: 'what is love?'

I first came across these lines in a book called "The Charmed Circle", when
I was all of 14 years old... To my young and (as yet) unimpressioned mind,
it spoke of a love so deep, so earnest and so 'giving' that it stayed with
me through the years in the quiet recesses of my mind, echoing gentle
reminders in soft undertones... "Tread softly because you tread on my
dreams"...

The years may have flown by since then and my impressions of love washed in
the many colours of experience... but the spirit of this verse remains.

Tina.

71 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Colin Finnie said...

Amitc is right when he points out that this poem is written in commonplace language.
It is a testament to Yeats' skill that he weaves such words into a cloth of many colours.
I take issue with Amitc on whether it matters that Yeats' rhymes are prosaic. The poem is incantatory, as are so many of WB's verses. The repetition was thus probably wholly intentional.

Coxhill Paul P said...

EOM

Jennifer Mc Lean said...

i am a fifth year student from donegal studying for my leaving certificate and i think this poem was amazingly beautiful

Skarabeusz said...

First of all - please excuse me my poor English, but it's not my spoken
language. I'm Polish, but poetry (not only Polish - but as well English) is
love of my life - that's why sooner or later I had to find "Aedh wishes"...
What can I say more than you've said before me? The last verse of this
poem... is... one of the greatest moments in my own private history of
poetry... I do not feel that it is about love (at least not only about
love); it is about something more general, maybe human condition in a world
devoid of imaginings...

PS
There is a little mistake in the title - should be "Aedh wishes..." not
"His..." - means the same, but...

fulvia centro said...

I am Italian and I met this poem in a movie '84 Charing Cross Road'. I heard the Italian version and I liked it very much, but I didn't know which was the poet. Now I am happy to know the original poem.

Fulvia

Maan Kamaljit said...

I'm not a poetry person, or thought I wasn't, but nothing's moved as much as
this poem. That was until I recited the poem to my girlfriend, her reply was
just as poignant:

" I would never tread on your dreams, I will put them with
mine."

Kind Regards

Kam Maan

Kanga House said...

How romantic is this!!A guy in my English class really,really liked this girl also in his class but both were soooooooo shy and would never do anything about it.Anyway,one day in class he stood up and read out this poem-the last 2 lines he looked up and said to this girl!!!
Well now they are married!!!
I think this sums up this poem-I so wish someone would read it to me!!!

CARLO BRUSATERRA said...

Io vorrei che poteste leggerlo in italiano, come è capitato a me.

Alana Brittain said...

Carlo Brusaterra, would like someone to write the poem in italian, 'sono capitato Carlo ma non so scrivere 'He wishes for the cloths in heaven' in italiano, mi dispiace.

Bjsm2000 said...

I heard these beautiful words in "84 Charing Cross Road" and had to find the
source. I did, on your site. I always wanted someone to feel that way about
me and recite this to me... No words can do the feeling justice - it is just
the way it is!
Barbara

Karen said...

No other poem speaks to me like this one does – I first encountered it in
the charming film ’84 Charing Cross Road’, a film I love, and immediately
went out to find a ‘good clean secondhand copy’ of Yeats ala Helene Hanff.

Karen, Australia

Jessica Schnell said...

I really liked this poem, and first heard it in the movie
"Equilibrium." Later I thought it so beautiful I had to look up the rest
of it. Thanks to the poster of this gem!

Win Bissell said...

In Drumcliff, Co. Sligo, Ireland, in the churchyard where Yeats is buried,
is a life-sized sculpture of a man crouched over a bronze cloth, set in a
marble base. Inscribed in the marble and bronze is this poem. To read it, I
had to step onto the sculpture itself. It is a spectacular and moving piece
of art, and my first introduction to this poet.

Scotlynne47 said...

This poem is the most beautiful I've ever read. I've jsut sent it to my
husband who is serving overseas to let him know my feelings. It has touched me
deeply.

Lynne
Florida, USA

Seamus Quigley said...

I first heard this poem on the film Equilibrium and immediately it spoke to
me in a way that not many poems or song ever have. It seemed to some up
presisely what I felt. it was a very profound moment.

NaomiCFox said...

I read this poem to my new husband at my wedding, having heard it recited on
the radio a couple of months earlier and been moved to tears.

I read it again, with my dreams ripped and soiled by muddy footprints, and I
am moved to tears once more.

This is possibly the most beautiful, simple, and meaningful verses I have
ever had the good fortune to hear. It was poignant at my wedding for I knew the
risks I was taking. It is more so now as I sit with my needle and thread trying
to mend my dreams and still longing for the love I still hold for my husband.

Phil Bowles said...

Im sorry, but "enwrought" is NOT common language! I have never used it or
heard it used in my life, and im known as a wordsmith! Don't get me wrong,
this is my favourite poem of all time....I have used it many many times. But
im amazed at how anyone can think the word "commonplace" in the same
PARAGRAPH as this masterpiece, let alone the same breath!

Tyra said...

I adore this poem. Like Many others I heard it first in the movie 84 Charing Cross Road. I read early in this sight that someone had an italian version of the poem. God, what I wouldn't do to see it written in "Italiano" If you have a version would you lay it on us!
Peace, Ty

Brian Kiser said...

I haven't read a lot of poetry, but this poem is quoted in the sci-fi movie
Equilibrium (which I love), and I became curious to hear all of this
beautiful poem. I'm glad I looked it up.

Julia Butters said...

This is one of the most beautiful poems I have ever heard. I too, heard it in the movie "84 Charing Cross Road". It richly describes how life should be for all of us. Now, I feel moved to read more of this poetry! Julie

Wannaseearainbow said...

Hello,

I am watching the movie 84 Charing Cross Road and while I am watching and
listening, did a search and found this thread with the actual poem here.

Funny how many others have done a similar search because of this wonderful
movie.()

Laura

McKay Bartholomew A A1C 12 MDSS/SGSAR said...

I looked up this poem because, like most of us who have written here, I saw
the movie Equilibrium (which by the way is the greatest movie ever partly
because of this poem). I know this has been said time and time again but
this is the greatest poem EVER. I didn't go to Yale or Princeton so I cant
tell you the syntax and devices Yeats used to form this masterpeice but i
can say that it has alot more meaning that just love. Not saying anything
against love but that just seems like the easy way out of finding the ture
meaning to this poem. It can be taken in many different ways. The first
and most obvious is love (duh), but because of some of my experiences I
believe that he is talking to this God through this verse. He wants to be
able to lay the greatest of cloths made of the most untouchable of resources
to worship or just show his appreciation and love for god, but can only lay
forword his dreams because that's the only thing he has. One thing I have
found out over the few years that I have been looking at poetry is that the
Poet, in this case WB Yeats, may have a meaning and an agenda of their own
when they write a poem but it only matters what it means you. And as for
common language, I dont agree with that comment, just because he doesn't use
big words doesn't mean it common language. Small words make big sentences
especially when put together so craftfully.

Bartholomew M. USAF

Keith McCabe said...

He is repenting, the poem is an act of contrition, 'We look through a
dark glass blindly', to see the error in ourselves, the evil that lurks
within. The answer is in the title, he wishes for the cloths of Heaven,
to cloth himself in righteousness, of light, the love reference is the
love of the Almighty in repentance. To dip our vesture in the blood of
the lamb . . The vesture of heaven, to end living in darkness and to
live in the light, to be born again in spirit. Sadly, in the modern
decadent age, so many dreams are destroyed my the hidden evil disguised
as the lamb (internally and externally), and not giving love a chance,
people must change before nations can.

Roman Paszkowski said...

Ciao Fulvia

You mentioned on the board that you first heard the poem in Italian first. There is a post from another Italian person on the board who wrote "Io vorrei che poteste leggerlo in italiano, come è capitato a me." Would it be possible for you to find the Italian version of the poem and post it on the board. I myself would be interested in seeing it in Italian as I'm sure would many others.

Regards
Roman

EdB said...

I was touched by what Tina wrote.
I too remember this beautiful poem by Yeats
from when I was 14 years old. It has stayed with
me ever since and a special moment caused me to search
for it. Yes, many years have passed since then, but the
warmth of Yeats has not waned. When thoughts of
Love possess my mind I think of this passionate poem.
Ed.

Harry Teuchert said...

I believe that only Yeats can touch the soul with this verse so simple
and yet so profound. A thousand meanings and interpretations would not
do justice to what he really had in mind. Being a poet myself, I know
that often when engaged in writing verse we find a different meaning
than the one with which we began.

Perhaps he speaks of his "being poor" to illustrate his inadequacy to
declare his love verbally and therefore expresses this humility in his
love as in a dream state. His dreams relate his desire to be accepted as
he is unconditionally.

FoxwellT

Janet Wales said...

this poem was sung at my wedding in 1955, it is beautiful. Janet

Iaincairns01 said...

Just beautiful.

Laura Bond said...

I too was exposed to the poem partly through the movie "84 Charing Cross Road". However, if you check it I believe you will find that the poem was originally penned by John Donne, though I have seen many books that attribute it to Yeats. It's sad that the true author is not recognized! (Not to diminish Yeats' work, which I also love.)

Laura

lyndagooding said...

Who but and Irishman could speak so sweetly xxx
I love you WB xxx

lyndagooding said...

Sorry I forgot, please read The Sally Gardens.
We sang this at school when I was about seven or eight years old, and the first time I heard it, it made me cry. Our music teacher claimed it as an 'English' folk song. However, my Irish mother was outraged and told me "Indeed it isn't, it is by the most wonderful "Irish" poet, W B Yeats!"

Stadtpark said...

To answer some previous speculation about the motivations for this
poem, it is quite well known that Yeats wrote this poem for Maud Gonne,
with whom he was infatuated and who was a type of muse for much of his
poetry. Unfortunately for him, his love was unrequited.

Tony Kinder said...

Fulvia

Found your blog on Yeats poem.

Do you know where can I find it translated into Italian.

Pleasant greetings from sunny Scotland.

Tony

Valerie Cooper said...

Perhaps someone can help me. I first read this poem in a book during
elementary school (sometime between 1985 and 1990) and loved it so much I
copied it down. I have carried that copy of the poem (I didn't even know the
title or author) since then. Lately I have been thinking about it and I
have had no luck trying to discover from which book I copied it. The story
(as best I remember it) was about two young lovers who were separated. The
boy sent the girl the first four lines of the poem as some kind of message
or code. She sent back the last four lines. Does anyone recognize this?
Thanks.

Kate.Owen said...

Keith my friend - If I were you I'd quit sleeping next to the cleaning
solvents - and remember to wear a lead hat next time you're standing under
the powerlines

Kate

ATIMEAGO said...

From: Herb
I did some research on the writer after watching a DVD series of the
BBC program Ballykissangel - Series 3. This poem appeared on the 3rd
disc of the set, during a very moving scene involving a young priest who
was struggling with the accidental death of a young woman that he
finally admitted that he loved. He had decided to leave the priest-hood
and marry the young woman, but....... she died by electrocution before
that could take place. There was a wake held at the end of the last
program, and one of the towns-people recited this beautiful poem in an
attempt to explain his loss of a friend and the impact she had on his
life. This portrayal of love and loss was unexpected within the
framework of this series. I was pleasantly surprised and very moved by
the way this incident played-out. It was wonderfully done and was a
truly fine vehicle that incorporated this work by W.B. Yeats.

Henry Zhang said...

I disagree that the poem carries an air of contrition. There is a subordinate air of regret, yes - a sort of apology from the speaker to his guest about his poverty, but the speaker never mentions repenting or atonement, and his speech quickly changes to a command: "tread softly". Yeats is bashful almost; we see that his is an entreaty similar to, say, Kurt Vonnegut's, when the late author said this: "God dammit, babies, you've got to be kind."

Phil, I disagree that the poem doesn't use common language. You have spoken of the eloquence of language, and the eloquence that language distills, but you seem to assert that both are the same. I disagree. It is possible to achieve the sublime with ordinary - as someone said earlier, incantatory - words. Besides the word you take issue with - "enwrought" - I think you might use the words Yeats uses here in your everyday life.

james said...

Hey Zhanger,

Why don't you tread softly on people's comments. Your tone is too engorged with over-wrought frot. It's puckered tumescence threatens to spew its gall all over this virtual sheet. You dirty fuck.

Anonymous said...

I too, met this poem in the movie "84 Charring Cross Road" and was determined to find it in print. But now I have it, I'm confused as to who is the author? Can anyone confirm if it is Donne or Yeats?

Mayank Mrinal said...

This poem reminds me of the days when i found my true love....
"Time has Faded.
Emotions are jaded.
But my love is laded
with trodden paths of hatred"

Anonymous said...

Amazing verse, isn't it?
Shows how much he or she or whatever loved the other.
Brilliant. Basically, I have nothing but I will give even that to you. Beautiful verse

havok2418 said...

Such absolute beauty to look and be seen as a human with his own inadequacies, to have humbled himself infront of his love and God wanting to give more, but because of his in resources, he uses the one of few things to express his infinte love...dreams

littleloiee said...

One of the most beautiful expressions of love! One need not give material things to express their love.

Anonymous said...

I hadn't heard this poem until quoted by Sir Ken Robinson at the TED symposium (2010). He was talking about our children's natural talents and the ways in which teachers need to take care of our students' dreams for themselves. Very moving... it is a poem of passion which can be applied to many of life's situations it seems...a very gifted poet is our W B Yeats!

Judith said...

I memorized this poem at my mother's knee, long before I could read. She believed in poetry and the value of committing them to memory. I have a slim volume of poems called "Silver Pennies" that she used to teach all seven of us about the beauty and power of poetry.

"Richer than I you shall never be, for I had a mother who read to me."

kieran said...

......this is a master piece as is the late Roy Orbison's song 'Dreams'......profound!

Anonymous said...

This poem is so beautiful. I came across it in my English book (as we are now studying poetry) and I thought it was one of the most beautiful poems I have ever heard.I love W.B.Yeats' work and have many poetry books in my home.I love the way he plays around with the colours and lights in this poem.Gorgeous.

"...I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly, because you tread on my drems."

Timothy Edwards said...

it would be fitting that I spoke and properly punctuated scale here only I never found much use for these for if the reader didnt understand what i meant by my words alone then why write true some intellectuals understand a great deal more but far to many over-complicate poems and try to make an complex theory as why how and rhythm and pentameter blah blah So it they will be the ones to argue against me on this but I believe the writings in this poem were indeed about a love in kind but more so of a poorer man who loved a woman who quite possibly being of a slighter upper class than he and he felt himself lesser the worth to another whom probably was financially sound and in to which was in competition for winning the heart of the young lady whom he was in process of swooning. Which after finding out he may not be victorious in his venture for her hand he feels he is about to lose her to the other he says in layman "I know I cant give you the finer things you deserve although I wish to god I could but I can promise you love and a good life filled with other riches to which you would have in abundance if you will only but say yes and choose me" you see and all the while with a sweat brazen smile and bent knee and 100 ring he is hoping she is in accord and does not bring crashing his dream world down

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Anonymous said...

First time I know about this poem was a few years ago: I was reading a book (I don't remember, the tittle right now) and was translated (or adapted maybe) to spanish. I want to share this translation with you all and I hope that not English speakers enjoy with this wonderful poem

Si yo tuviera telas bordadas de cielo
Tejidas con oro, con plata, con luz
Transparentes telas de azul sereno
De noches, de luces y de amaneceres
A tus pies pondría todos mis tesoros
Pero en mi pobreza, poseo tan solo
Los sueños que a tus pies extiendo
Pisa suavemente que pisas mis sueños

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