When you are a penniless and lovesick poet with nothing but your dreams to offer your beloved, yank down the heaven and put it under her feet. Poets can do that. “Tread softly,” the poet says in this beautiful poem by William Butler Yeats.
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 Yeats, 1899)
Anthony Hopkins recites this poem in 84 Charing Cross Road, a little gem of a film based on the letters between American author Helene Hanff and Frank Doel at the antiquarian bookshop Marks & Co, 84 Charing Cross Road, London. Over the course of 20 years, starting in 1949, they exchanged letters but never met. The film is on my list of 25 favorite movies about writing. Starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins.
With spring coming up in 1950, Helene asked Frank to send her a book of love poems, small enough to stick in a slacks pocket and take to Central Park. “No Keats or Shelley, send me poets who can make love without slobbering,” she wrote. Mission accomplished with Yeats.
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