Cloths of Heaven, William Butler Yeats: Summary & Analysis

"He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven" by William Butler Yeats is a poignant exploration of love, sacrifice, and the limitations of material wealth. Through the metaphor of embroidered cloths and dreams, the poet expresses his desire to offer the most precious and exquisite gifts to his beloved, even though he lacks material wealth. The poem conveys the vulnerability and depth of emotions associated with love and the willingness to offer one's innermost dreams to another.

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.

Critical Analysis

"He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven" delves into the theme of love and the desire to give the best of oneself to a beloved. The poem's imagery of embroidered cloths and dreams serves as a metaphorical representation of the speaker's intentions and limitations.

The opening lines, "Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths, / Enwrought with golden and silver light," create a vivid image of celestial fabrics adorned with precious metals, suggesting the grandeur of the speaker's wishes.

The repetition of "cloths" and the enumeration of different types of cloths—blue, dim, dark—symbolize various aspects of life and emotions, including night and light. This reinforces the idea of encompassing all experiences and emotions within the offering.

The speaker expresses his desire to spread these symbolic cloths under the feet of his beloved, illustrating his yearning to provide the best and most beautiful gifts, even beyond material wealth.

However, the poem takes a poignant turn with the realization that the speaker is poor in material terms. He conveys his vulnerability by stating, "But I, being poor, have only my dreams." This contrast between grand aspirations and personal limitations adds depth to the poem.

The final lines, "I have spread my dreams under your feet; / Tread softly because you tread on my dreams," reveal the profound sentiment behind the poem. The speaker equates his dreams with a fragile and vulnerable part of himself, and he asks his beloved to treat them with care and sensitivity.

"He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven" captures the essence of giving oneself wholeheartedly in love and the emotional significance of such an offering, transcending material limitations.

Summary

"He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven" by William Butler Yeats conveys the speaker's desire to offer the best of himself to his beloved, symbolized by heavenly cloths and dreams. The poem beautifully captures the depth of emotions and vulnerability associated with love's offerings.

Themes of the Poem

  • Love and Sacrifice: The poem explores the theme of offering one's innermost dreams and desires as an act of love and sacrifice.
  • Material Limitations: The contrast between the speaker's aspirations and his material poverty highlights the power of emotional offerings beyond material wealth.
  • Vulnerability: The speaker's plea to tread softly on his dreams reflects the vulnerability and sensitivity associated with opening oneself to another.

Imagery and Language

  • Metaphorical Imagery: The metaphor of "heavens' embroidered cloths" and "dreams" creates a rich imagery that conveys the depth of the speaker's feelings.
  • Repetition: The repetition of "cloths" and the enumeration of different types of cloths enhance the imagery and reinforce the all-encompassing nature of the offering.
  • Symbolism: The use of cloths and dreams as symbols emphasizes the speaker's desire to give the best of himself.
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