William Butler Yeats, widely considered to be one of the greatest poets of the English language, was born on this day in 1865. We pay tribute to this towering figure of 20th century literature with his much-loved poem, 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.
W. B. Yeats was a favourite poet of composers of Rebecca Clarke’s generation and these beautiful words inspired one of her earliest mature songs. She also set Yeats’ classic Down by the Salley Gardens to music, as did her contemporary, Ivor Gurney:
Down by the salley gardens my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish, with her would not agree.
In a field by the river my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears
Gurney’s song can be heard here in a performance by festival artist, mezzo-soprano Kitty Whately:
We are delighted that Kitty appears at the festival in Beverley on 27th September in a recital with New Paths’ artistic director Libby Burgess – who shares a birthday with Yeats! And so we end this news post by wishing Libby a very happy birthday. We greatly look forward to her collaboration with Kitty in the autumn.