An eagle alit one mountain may breathe from the lit sea beneath
Its ardours of rest and of love,
And the crimson pall of eve may fall
From the depth of heaven above,
With wings folded I rest, on mine aery nest,
As still as a brooding dove.
That orbéd maiden with white fire laden,
Whom mortals call the moon,
Glides glimmering o’er my fleece-like floor,
By the midnight breezes strewn;
And wherever the beat of her unseen feet,
Which only the angels hear,
May have broken the woof of my tent’s thin roof,
The stars peep behind her and peer;
And I laugh to see them whirl and flee,
Like a swarm of golden bees,
When I widen the rent in my wind-built tent,
Till the calm rivers, lakes, and seas,
Like strips of sky fallen through me on high,
Are each paved with the moon and these.
I bind the sun’s throne with a burning zone,
And the moon’s with a girdle of pearl;
The volcanoes are dim, and the stars reel and swim,
When the whirlwinds my banners unfurl.
From cape to cape, with a bridge-like shape,
Over a torrent sea,
Sunbeam-proof, I hang like a roof,
The mountains its columns be.
The triumphal arch through which I march
With hurricane, fire, and snow,
When the powers of the air are chained to my chair,
Is the million-coloured bow;
The sphere-fire above its soft-colours wove,
While the moist earth was laughing below.
I am the daughter of earth and water,
And the nursling of the sky;
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
I change, but I cannot die.
For after the rain when with never a stain,
The pavilion of heaven is bare,
And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams,
Build up the blue dome of air,
I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,
And out of the caverns of rain,
Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,
I arise and unbuild it again.
A Little Poetry—The opening lines from Shelley’s poem “The Cloud” caused me to write it down on my memorization list before I even finished reading it. I loved the first-person narration, the beautiful imagery, the internal rhyme, and the gentle rhythm.
Weeks later, on a whim (because I thought the title was interesting), I borrowed from the library a book called The Invention of Clouds: How an Amateur Meteorologist Forged the Language of the Skies. It tells the story of how a modest, little-known Quaker exploded into scientific fame with his lecture on “The Modifications of Clouds.” It was Luke Howard who captured those fanciful vapors with the names we still use today; and I was fascinated when I discovered that Shelley’s poem, though Romantic, was also clearly informed by Howard’s scientific observations. (This little coincidence reminded me of Laura Wood’s suspicion that “angels have specific intellectual interests and like to interfere with our reading.”)
A Fine Picture—Locker is an artist of the second-generation Hudson River School, and his natural landscapes are exceptionally beautiful. He is masterful in his depictions of clouds, which made me immediately think of him when deciding on today’s artwork.
Goethe said that everyone should read a little poetry and see a fine picture every day, to prevent worldly cares from overcoming our sense of the beautiful. Get your daily dose of beauty at Wrestle with the Angel.