W.B. Yeats wrote the poem "Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven." It was published in the year 1899 in Yeats’ book of poetry, The Wind Among the Reeds.
The poem is a single stanza consisting of eight lines. It employs ABAB CDCD rhyme scheme. The corresponding words (AA, BB, CC, DD) are identical.
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
The speaker (henceforth referred to with male pronouns) is not alluding to the religious or spiritual Heaven; rather he is using it synonymously with skies. The word "heavens," however, conjures a stronger celestial image for the reader than the more common word "skies." The speaker does not specify a time for which he desires the "heavens’ embroidered cloths." This leaves much interpretation open to the imagination of the reader, allowing for a wide array of rich visualizations. The reader can think of the sun, various clouds, stars, constellations, and so on. This makes sense when taking into account the words "embroidered cloths," since there is plurality
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
"Enwrought" is a variation on the spelling of the word "inwrought." This means to be intricately embroidered with a decoration. This description of the embroidery on the cloths of the heavens is highly visual. Once again, there is no exclusion of day or night. The speaker sees beauty in the heavens at any time of day. The golden and silver light used as embroidery represent the light cast by the sun during the day and that cast by the moon and stars during the night. Immediately, from the first two lines of the poem, the reader can vividly visualize a complex and beautiful sky.
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
There is an allure in any hue. Not all must be bright or stand out, the dark and the dim have an appeal as well. All of these qualities can be seen when looking at the sky. These vary not only according to the time of day, but very also depending on the whether. An overcast day has its unique beauty and feeling, as does a clear sky, alive and bright with sunlight.
Of night and light and the half light,
Thought the reader was clued in to the speaker’s overall appreciation of the heavens, this line confirms the notion. "Of night and light and the half light," is a well-phrased line. It captures the nighttime, day time, and everything in between.
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
Until now, the speaker has focused his energy on creating a stunning and engaging image for the reader. This has built up the magnificence of the sky, or of "heavens’ embroidered cloths" for the reader as perceived by the speaker. The motive is revealed in this fifth line; there is someone (henceforth referred to with female pronouns) he considers even more magnificent than the sky. He holds this person in such high esteem, he wants to take something he has portrayed to be breathtaking and lay it at her feet. He seems to believe only something so carefully and beautifully designed is worthy for her to step on.
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
The speaker may not mean "poor" merely in the financial sense. He may be poor, or lacking, in many aspects of life. This implies he cannot "afford" the unmatched cloths to lay under her feet. The speaker’s own poorness is a contrast to the lavish cloth he wishes to acquire, if only to give it away. He appears humble in his desire and position. He dreams of its beauty, he dreams of her value, he dreams of being able to give her everything she deserves but does not believe it can be a reality.
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
In the previous line, the speaker stated he only has his dreams. That means he will lay down at her feet everything he has. Everything he owns, hopes for, dreams of, thinks, and values are at her disposal. He wants to give her his all and lay that under her feet. Once again, the reader can appreciate how humble the speaker is. Though he does not have much, he is willing and happy to give it away to this person he loves.
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
Though the final line of the poem is charming and sweet, it is no less powerful because of it. This reflects the man’s humility. He is imperfect and modest but these characteristics of his strike the reader as important, especially within the context of the poem. He has placed everything he owns and everything he is at her feet so she can walk upon. All he is asks is for her to "tread softly." He merely asks she treat everything he has given with care; in essence, he is asking to be treated with consideration. If he has given everything for her, a "heavy step" (or inconsideration) would destroy him.
Though the poem is short, it manages to capture the strong feelings of the speaker very well. It also creates beautiful imagery for the reader to feel further engaged. The poem begins with a detailed description of the skies, represented as the cloths of the heavens’, lending a stunning image to the reader. This also serves to provide an idea of the worth of what the speaker wants. The reader then learns this cloth is desired to be laid at the feet of someone who is very special. Finally, the speaker confesses he is too poor but will lay down all his dreams at her feet. The poem ends on a note of humility and vulnerability, with the speaker asking her to be careful with all he has given.
A central theme of this poem, aside from love, is that of dreams. Everything described and addressed in the poem is either dream-like or actually labeled a dream by the speaker. Dreams can range from what our mind produces while we sleep to that which we wish for. It is fitting to use imagery of the heavens, intricate embroidery, love, loyalty, sacrifice, and humility to detail this theme. The poem is spent entirely talking about something the speaker can only dream of having and the person he dreams of giving it to.