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 YeatsWoods at Purleigh Essex. Photo my own.
I have long loved the poems by the Irish poet W.B.Yeats and had been chewing over the possibility of making one of my hand made books illustrating a portion of his magical output. I remember my first reading of one of his poems when I was a schoolgirl, and was captivated by the musicality , drawn by the melancholic undertones which so mirror my own natural character. He makes the act of yearning beautiful. I do not want to analyse or dissect, I simply want to stand and hear the beauty of the words. I do not know really, much about the man – it will make him too real when his legacy is one of magic and dreamtime. There is so much reality, and as Eliot said, we really cannot stand too much.
I made this for myself, hoping it would delight others too – if it does then I will make one for you too.
I love this poem and keep going back to it for lots of different projects. There is something deeply resonant in the melancholic longing that Yeats expresses, promising beauty and meaning, offering the perpetual challenge to discover the unattainable, the unimaginable.
The illustration is from a walk I took a few years ago in Christchurch England, alone and tranquil. Somehow fitting.
I whispered, “I am too young,”
And then, “I am old enough”;
Wherefore I threw a penny
To find out if I might love.
“Go and love, go and love, young man,
If the lady be young and fair.”
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
I am looped in the loops of her hair.
O love is the crooked thing,
There is nobody wise enough
To find out all that is in it,
For he would be thinking of love
Till the stars had run away
And the shadows eaten the moon.
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
One cannot begin it too soon.
— William Butler Yeats
I absolutely love the second verse of this poem , it’s musicality and lyric qualities. It has a wonderful throwback quality to nursery rhyme with its rhythm and how ‘the stars had run away, and the shadows eaten the moon.’
Makes me gentle. Not a bad accomplishment Mr Yeats, for a string of words.
Wind from the Sea Andrew Wyeth
W B Yeats evocative poem ‘The Song of the Wandering Aengus’;
throughout his poetry, Yeats works with the inescapable polarities
inherent in being human. One is the gap created
by our ability to imagine perfection, to dream , to pass
into a world of mystery and magic, to imagine a life better
than we know — and the mundanity of everyday life.
We feel the pain when the imagined life makes the life we lead seem desolate, when the ordinary everyday is our only reality. It behoves us to allow our real lives to support our dreams and vice versa. This is how Yeats expresses the task, of living in hope of a dreamt possibility, forever.
Yeats is a favourite poet of mine, expressing the longing in the individual for something yearned for yet possibly unfathomable. The quest is the inevitable journey each individual must take. It is the perpetual drive to retain the mystery and magic in a world that is sometimes inhumane, hostile.
One more thing – read it aloud, it is music .
The collage is mine, borrowing from Rembrandt and the portrait of his son as Titus courtesy of the Rijks
I don’t have daughters, but still I fouind my heart moved by Yeat’s feeling for one in his poem.
There exists a virtual museum which is absolutely wonderful to wander round if you have half an hour to spare, http://www.nli.ie/yeats/main.html. Fully worth your while.
Yeats echoes my thoughts about youth too,
‘I am persuaded that our intellects at twenty contain all the truths we shall ever find…’
The subsequent years are honing those ideas, shaping them, flexing them.
I have used illustrations originally produced by Aubrey Beardsley to enhance the text. Hope you enjoy.