Sunday, 5 May 2013


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 is regarded as the major poet of the Twentieth century, and his popularity today is undimmed. In this poem he wishes for the ‘embroidered cloths’ of heaven to lay them under his love’s feet. Yeats regards the common ground too coarse a surface for his sweetheart’s feet to tread upon. This is the Romantic Yeats endeavouring through his verse to transcend time and space and enter that other world of light and mystery. He declares his material poverty and confesses that he only has his ‘dreams’ or poems to cushion the passage of his love through this world. The ‘dreams’  are the cloths of heaven and he implores his love to walk gently on these imaginative outpourings. Loving someone makes us vulnerable as we open up our secret innermost feelings. Yeats in his early twenties met Nationalist activist, Maud Gonne, so beginning a lifelong infatuation. She refused his marriage proposal on four occasions, eventually to Yeats’ horror marrying someone else. Perhaps in this poem he is remembering the far from soft step Maud left on his own youthful dreams.

Gerard O'Shea

 For a You Tube version of this poem…

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