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Today, a reprise of one of my favorite poems. Lots of folks love this one for the final two lines. I love it for the first four. Yesterday morning, whilst I was talking to my brother on the phone, I asked him how late it stayed light in Idaho, where he's been "visiting" on official Air Force business. He mentioned it being dusky at 10, with the remnants of twilight still visible at 10:30. And I started quoting this poem to him, because of "night and light and the half-light".

Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven
by 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.

This is composed of two quatrains, mashed together to form one stanza. It rhymes ABABCDCD. And it does so by reusing the same word twice: cloths, light, feet and dreams. It doesn't use a standardized metre, exactly (like iambic pentameter or dactyls). Rather, it uses the same number of accented beats: 4 in the first three lines, three in the fourth, 4 in lines 5-7 and 3 in line 8. Those of you so inclined can test it out by printing the poem and marking the stressed syllables. Go on. I'll wait.

I love the language of this poem, and the notion that the heavens are composed of embroidered cloths capable of being pulled down and spread at the feet of a loved one. I hope you enjoy it as well.

For those of you wondering, "Aedh" is a fictional character, a lovelorn guy held in thrall by La belle dame sans merci. The poem is sometimes retitled as "He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven." It was recited in a movie called 84 Charing Cross Road as well as the movie Equilibrium.

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( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 20th, 2008 03:30 am (UTC)
Never read this one at all-- gorgeous!!!!
Jun. 20th, 2008 03:45 am (UTC)
Seriously? Color me startled! It's right up your alley; in fact, I'm nearly certain I've seen at least one of your illustrations that seems made for this.
Jun. 20th, 2008 03:46 am (UTC)
Nope, never read this one. But he's definitely thinking with a similar mindset here. Very similar!
Jun. 20th, 2008 03:57 am (UTC)
Coincidentally, I posted a G.K. Chesterton parody of Yeats. It doesn't take away from the beauty of Mr. Yeats' poetry, but it is funny.

Sherry (Semicolon)
Jun. 20th, 2008 12:24 pm (UTC)
The Chesterton Yeats was funny, although it read a bit less like Yeats than the other two read like their originals (Whitman and Tennyson) because Chesterton went with hymn form instead of something a bit more obviously Yeatsian. Still, the dry sticks sounded about right.
Jun. 20th, 2008 10:35 am (UTC)
One of my all-time favorites, committed to memory. I love the "night, and light and half-light," too. I first heard it in the BBC series, "Sex, Chips and Rock 'n Roll."

This was also recited in an episode of "Ballykissangel," with friends standing around mourning the death of a friend.
Jun. 20th, 2008 12:01 pm (UTC)
That line is such a killer, in my opinion.
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Jun. 20th, 2008 12:22 pm (UTC)
For me, it's the first four together that are magic, but if I had to pick two, it'd be The blue and the dim and the dark cloths/of night and light and the half-light. *swoon*
Jun. 20th, 2008 01:40 pm (UTC)
solstice light
What an appropriate poem for this time of year, because in Ireland right now it is indeed light until late, late, late. Last week, 10:30 was twilight. Dawn was more like 4:30 am.

I find the second two lines very interesting, because of the way Yeats sets blue, dim, and dark and then, rather than day, twilight, night, moves from night, light, and half-light. They aren't exact parallels in content--it's the sound that matters.
Jun. 21st, 2008 02:38 am (UTC)
Re: solstice light
I like that too, even if it's a bit of a mis-match. Those two lines are my favorites, though: the blue and the dim and the dark cloths/of night and light and the half-light
Jun. 20th, 2008 03:57 pm (UTC)
Oh wow. That one is very sweet.
Jun. 21st, 2008 02:38 am (UTC)
I'm so glad you liked it.
Jun. 21st, 2008 10:00 am (UTC)
I agree with you; those first four lines are particularly beautiful. Last night we were out at an ice cream social and my boys were delighted to drive home in the dusky dark at 9:00. We had ice cream twice yesterday to celebrate the longest day.
Jun. 21st, 2008 03:22 pm (UTC)
Ice cream twice is a most excellent celebration!
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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