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"He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” is probably the most famous poem by Irish poet W.B. Yeats (1865-1939). The message of the poem is the perennial one of love, and appears to be addressing a lover directly. The poet says that if he were rich, he would offer all the world and its treasures. He would take the heavens and make it into a cloth which he would spread under his lover’s feet. But being poor, he can only offer the thing he feels has any worth - his dreams. But because dreams are delicate and vulnerable, tread softly.
This short poem has an unusual structure - there are no rhymes, but alternate lines end with the same word: cloths, light, feet, dreams. Key words, such as dreams, light and cloth also recur three times, as though the poet is seeking to express the same simple ideas in different ways. This setting of “He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” was written for the men of Auckland Choral. It was prompted by conductor Uwe Grodd commenting on the particularly fine sound the tenors and basses were making in rehearsal, and that “perhaps we should have a piece just for them”. Never let an opportunity go by, as they say!
for the men of Auckland Choral and conductor Uwe Grodd
Text by W.B. Yeats