The Clouds.

Oh clouds ! ye ancient messengers,1
Old couriers of the sky, 2
Treading, as in primeval years,3
Yon still immensity !4
In march how wildly beautiful5
Along the deep ye tower,6
Begirt, as when from chaos dull7
Ye loomed in pride and power,8
To crown creation’s morning hour.9
Ye perish not, ye passing clouds !10
But, with the speed of time,11
Ye flit your shadowy shapes, like shrouds,12
O’er each emerging clime ;13
And thus on broad and furlless wings14
Ye float in light along,15
Where every jewell’d planet sings16
Its clear eternal song,17
Over the path our friends have gone !18
Against that deep and peerless blue19
Ye hold your journeying20
That silent birth-place of the dew,21
Where life and lustre spring.22
And then, how goldenly ye shine23
On your immortal way,24
Sailing through realms so near divine,25
Under the fount of day !26
O’er ye concenter’d glories play.27
Ye posters of the wakeless air !28
How silently ye glide29
Down the unfathom’d atmosphere,30
That deep—deep, azure tide !31
And thus in giant pomp ye go,32
On high and reachless range,33
Above earth’s gladness and its wo,34
Through centuries of change.35
Your destiny how lone and strange !36
Ye bear the bow of beauty—flung37
On your triumphal path,38
Splendid as first in joy it hung39
O’er God’s retiring wrath.40
The promise and the covenant41
Are written on your brow42
The mercy to the sinful sent43
Is bending o’er them now.44
Ye bear the memory of the vow.45
Ye linger with the silver stars,46
Ye pass before the sun47
Ye marshal elements to wars,48
And when the roar is done,49
Ye lift your volumed robes in light,50
And wave them to the world,51
Like victory flags o’er scatter’d fight,52
Brave banners all unfurl’d53
Still there, though rent and tempest-hurl’d.54
Ye bear the living thunder out,55
Ye pageants of the sky !56
Answering with trumpets’ brattling shout57
The lightning’s scorching eye.58
Pale faces cluster under ye,59
Beneath your withering look,60
And shaking hearts bow fearfully61
At your sublime rebuke.62
Has man his mockery forsook ?63
And then, in still and summer hours,64
When men sit weary down,65
Ye come o’er heated fields and flowers,66
With shadowy pinions on67
Ye hover where the fervent earth68
A sadden’d silence fills,69
And, mourning o’er its stricken’d mirth,70
Ye weep along the hills.71
Then how the wakening landscape thrills !72
And thus ye circle countless spheres,73
Old spirits of the skies !74
The same through nature’s smiles and tears,75
Ye rose on paradise.76
I hear a voice from out your shrouds,77
That tells me of decay78
For though ye stay not, hurtling clouds !79
Till the last gathering day,80
Ye pass like life’s dim dreams away.81