1. Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
2. Enwrought with golden and silver light,
3. The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
4. Of night and light and the half-light,
5. I would spread the cloths under your feet:
6. But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
7. I have spread my dreams under your feet;
8. Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
This brief, but beautiful poem was introduced to me in a very unlikely place--Varsity Choir. These words, placed to music, were one of the songs for our holiday concert; and though I can recite the words from memory, I have not considered their true meaning.
Yeats begins his poem by describing the embroidered cloths that he wishes he could possess. The cloths, being from Heaven--a place of paradise--are visualized through imagery like "golden and silver light" (2) and "blue and dim" (3) to conjure up an image of luxurious and colorful material . These cloths are of significant value and worth. One would assume that the owner of such a treasure would surely showcase, sell, or keep them to themselves, but the man being portrayed in this poem says that they would be given to his loved one, "I would spread the cloths under your feet" (5). The act of spreading something under one's feet is a sign of respect , and he imagines just that, which displays his intense feelings for her.
However, these cloths are imaginitive, and therefore only exist in his mind and personal desires. He is not wealthy; he cannot afford such a gift; he cannot even supply something close to that level of joy, "But I, being poor, have only my dreams" (6). His dreams--symbolizing his love--are all that he possesses; enough to satisfy him, and enough to hopefully satisfy her. He would give her everything that he has, but is vulnerable and easily affected...she could easily break his heart. By stating, "Tread softly, for you tread on my dreams," (8) he means that she must be gentle and respectful because he is very sincere when it comes to his feelings. Yeats implicitly goes to show that one does not need cloths of heaven to achieve love, but rather hopes/dreams, and compassion.