Archive for August 19th, 2022

Cloths of Heaven

GC Myers- Chaos & Light sm

Chaos & Light— Show Closes August 25 at the West End Gallery

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, Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

I wanted some bit of writing to pair with the title painting, Chaos & Light, for my current West End Gallery show which ends next week, on Thursday, August 25. I thought of a poem from W.B. Yeats originally called Aedh Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven. Aedh was an Irish name derived from a god from Irish mythology, sometimes referred to as the god of death. It was also a character name used by Yeats in some of his works such as this poem. 

The title was later changed to He Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven, dropping the Aedh from its title. I don’t know if this was done by Yeats or later editors who felt that the change might broaden the understanding and appeal of the poem. It probably cut down on people asking who or what this Aedh was, as well.

This poem, at eight lines, is Yeats’ shortest poem and covers territory, the love offering, that has been explored by countless poets through the ages. I read a short analysis of this poem and it was pointed out that the thing that made this poem stand out among the many other similar poems of this type is the repetition of key words, especially in piece with such a limited number of lines: cloths (three times), dreams (three times), light (three times), spread (twice), tread (twice), under your feet (twice). 

The writer of this analysis points out the effect of this repetition changes the rhythm of the lines as well which makes it unique among other such poems while at the same time giving the poem a sense of simplicity, even one of familiarity and banality, that belies its depth. This allows the reader to easily take in the whole of the work before they even recognize or understand the true depth of feeling contained.

I mention this because this idea the simplicity of form, of the repetition of forms giving a work a sense of familiarity and banality that masks its depth of feeling is how I often see my own work. Rearranging these familiar, oft-used forms in my paintings is like moving repeated words within a poem to create new rhythms and depths. 

I can certainly see that in Chaos & Light at the top. It has many forms that will be familiar to those of you who know my work. But the arrangement of these forms combined with variations of light and dark, colors and contrasts, surface textures, etc., make it into something unique, something with its own sense of feeling and depths. 

Or maybe it’s just me wishing for the cloths of heaven. Who knows? Below is a very short reading of the Yeats poem from Tom O’Bedlam. Might be worth 35 seconds of your time.

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