The twentieth-century bard of Ireland, William Butler Yeats, was highly regarded for his contributions to both Irish and English literary institutions. The exponent of Abbey Theatre belongs to the Anglo-Irish minority of Protestants. He was born in Sandymount, Dublin as a son of a lawyer and a famous portrait painter. Some of his famous works are The Second Coming, Lake Isle of Innisfree, and Phenomenal Woman. Still, I Rise, The Road Not Taken (poems), and Cathleen ni Houlihan, Countess Cathleen(plays). He was the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in the year 1923.
The setting of the Poem
First published as Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven, the Poem was included in Yeats’ third collection of poetry, “The Wind Among the Reeds” (1899). The Poem is written as an expression of the poet’s intimate emotions for his beloved, Maud Gonne. The personal wishes and yearning of a man who regrets his state of being a pauper and his internal conflicts are the setting of the Poem.
Poetic Devices in He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven
“spread… under your feet.”
“spread my dreams under your feet” (line 7)
“Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.” (line 8)
“Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,”
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths, (A)
Enwrought with golden and silver light, (B)
The blue and the dim and the dark clothes (A)
Of night and light and the half-light, (B)
I would spread the clothes under your feet: (C)
But I, being poor, have only my dreams; (D)
I have spread my dreams under your feet; (C)
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams. (D)
He Wishes for the Clothes of Heaven Summary
The Poem begins with a wish. The speaker is yearning for the wealth of heaven in the first few lines. The clothes adorned with the golden rays of the sun and the silver thread of moonlight and woven with the velvety blackness of night, with alternating dark and light hues, are what the speaker wishes for. However, he does not ask these for himself, which is clear in the fifth line of the Poem. The luxuries that he asks for are to be used for paving a smooth path for his beloved’s feet. The speaker is not far removed from reality, though. He has a quite vivid idea about his situation that he does not want to keep his partner in darkness. He states that his only possession is his dreams that he nurtured till now and today, he shall gift that to his loved one without any hesitation. Nevertheless, a word of caution adorns the last line bringing the reader back to reality. While giving away his dreams to tread on, he asks his lover to care about what she steps on. One wrong step shall mean the complete destruction of the fragile house of dreams.
He Wishes for the Clothes of Heaven Analysis
The unconditional love of man to his partner, which lets him sacrifice all his worldly and dreamy possessions, is spoken about in the Poem. Every man wishes for materialistic possessions of fine cloth and a big house in his life. These are the greatest dreams of his life until someone priceless arrives in his life. From that particular moment, all that mattered until then ceased to exist have its worth. He quite gladly gives all that up for a life with his beloved. His love does not depend on these materialistic things. His dreams become his greatest treasure. A dream that is woven with the thread of happiness and shall become the shroud in their life together. At this moment, he is ready to share this dream with his partner, hoping to build a life together. There is an innate fear that once his worldly wealth is lost, his love shall no longer survive. This fear makes him cautious, and he, in turn, presents the reality to his beloved before she enters his life. He makes the path clear and the picture vivid so that she knows what she is opting for and heading towards. He hopes that this little caution shall save their relationship and no heart shall be broken in the end.
The tone of the Poem:
The repetitiveness of words and phrases in the Poem indicates the stress point in it. Three different tones are closely knitted and follow one after another in the Poem. The first five lines are a clear indication of the nostalgic tone of the speaker. His deep desires are exhibited in these lines. As we move to the sixth and seventh lines, the mood changes to that of the offering. He offers the things he owns to his beloved. The final line is a request to the latter by the former to care for his dreams and emotions rather than taking them for granted.
He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven is a poem with no real external rhyme scheme. The one that is available is just a result of the mere alternating repetition of the end words. In the line:
“Of night and light and the half-light.”
We come across internal half-rhymes. With a little ironic touch, the message of the Poem is imparted in a simple and straightforward manner through the eight short lines. With the recurring repetition of words and phrases in an alternating manner, Yeats intends to say the same thing in a slightly deviant manner. The verses are loaded with the beauty of brevity. The usage of first and third-person pronouns and the present tense gives a feeling of intimacy to the reader.
Central Idea of He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven:
As the title indicates, the Poem revolves around the wishes of a poor lover who wants to gift the whole world to his beloved. He wishes nothing for himself. Whatever he asks for is to be offered to the one he is in love with. His vulnerability towards love and regret of not having materialistic possessions is evident in each line of the Poem. The dreams are subtle and delicate and the only wealthy treasure of the speaker who yearns for his lover’s understanding of the same.
A man in love wants to offer things beyond his reach for the one he has fallen for. Until then, all the worldly things are of no importance to him, but the arrival of a new member to his life marks the beginning of something. He is desperate to keep her happy and fulfill her wishes, so he starts regretting his inefficiency. However, this does not stop him from offering the little he held dear to him. The dreams, his most precious possession, is his beloved to tread on from the moment their soul met. Though things are not how he wishes them to be, all that matters is his partner’s happiness. Therefore, he daringly forsakes his dreams to build an empire of joy for his beloved. Yet he does not want to hit rock bottom hard, so he asks her to take each step carefully and not take things for granted, for life’s realities can be harsh.
You can also check out the summary of The Heart of the Tree by Henry Cuyler Bunner.
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