Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven
– William Butler Yeats
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.
First off, the name Aedh in the title is Gaelic and carries the meaning of ‘fire’. Several early catholic saints, it seems, were named such. Yeats’ uses this character in a number of his poems in a manner quite different from its meaning. His character is pale and lovelorn near a polar opposite of fire.
I first encountered this poem (or the last few lines of it) in the movie Equilibrium. For those who haven’t seen it, it combines elements from Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, and 1984. An interesting movie for those who haven’t seen it.
Of course, when one reads this, one immediately knows that this is a love poem. Here is a man who wishes to give his love not just his entire world, but all things in existance as they are represented by the cloths of the heavens. He is willing to lay everything down under the feet of his love.
However, he is poor, and can only dream of laying everything under the feet of love. As is so often done in life, people put everything on hold for love, even their dreams.
Dreams here represent happiness as well. When one places happiness under the feet of love, pain and misery can be the result. This is why Aedh admonishes his love to walk softly, lest his dreams, his happiness, and his very self be twisted and contorted by the passing of love.
Love makes us vunerable. We are often hurt most by those we care about, despite intentions. Love works best when the dreams of both are near equal. Then, there exists that wonderful treading softly of four feet (and not two). Love is most tender when our innermost selves are viewed with understanding by another.
Stepping outside of the original intent of the poem, groups of people can make many things happen when they walk intently on a shared dream. Wonderful things, and dreadful things. Unfortunately, mankind hasn’t quite reached the point of being able to tiptoe about the dreams of all men. When we have achieved this, we will have achieved a true life, filled with liberty and happiness.