Posts Tagged ‘Clouds’

Let us be literal for a moment.  Molesworth (I vaguely recall) and many more have probably been here before but (and the spell checker just suggested Wordsworth for Molesworth), “I wandered lonely as a cloud …”    Can clouds be lonely?   Like a lonely goat-herd?  Does it mean anything, really?  Apart from rhyming with that crowd of golden daffodils?  By the same token, looking “at clouds from both sides, now“?  “From up and down“?  Like in, as they will keep on saying, ‘downside economics’?  Whatever, it’s “clouds’ illusions” I labour my way not so much to recall as … if a picture paints a thousand words (and a photo, ergo, too):

Not a pixel was changed in the posting of this picture, no messing with Reflection effects in PaintShop Pro or whatever else you use, no Rotating mirror applied.  Those are clouds at first glance – and I wasn’t alone in this – displaying some weird internal symmetry.  Those black specks are some of the first swallows of the season, by the way.  Andrea bought me that cloud book a few Yuletides ago – might provide some clues as to what’s going on – and I fully intend to read it (The cloudspotter’s guide by Gavin Pretor-Pinney, 2006) one of these days, given I really don’t know clouds at all.

Truth be told, I had to open PaintShop Pro just now to make sure I got the terminology right and resistance to the urge proved futile.  It’s a great function, bestowing a sense of immanence to the most mundane landscape.

It can do magical things with trees, never mind creating three-legged people.  But enough of that.  I drift.

I’ve been dipping into Thomas Hardy‘s poetry lately.  Mostly in the bath, but fear not, despite being advertised as ‘good’ on AbeBooks, it’s a crap old desiccated and browning copy, though, bought for peanuts and I wasn’t expecting anything else really, so no harm in prospect.  Anyway, I’ve done my best to block out the Titanic commemoration mania so I’m in no position to know if Hardy’s fine poem, The convergence of the twain (Lines on the loss of the Titanic) has been quoted much, but somehow I doubt it, in that he gives equal time and back story to the iceberg.  I’m going to stick my neck out here and suggest it’s not about fate and destiny.  But the main reason I started on Hardy here are some lines from one of his prefaces.

In his ‘Introductory note’ to his last slim volume of poetry, Winter words in various moods and metres, Thomas Hardy writes:

My last volume of poems was pronounced wholly gloomy and pessimistic by reviewers – even by some of the more able class.  My sense of the oddity of this verdict may be imagined when, in selecting them, I had been, as I thought, rather too liberal in admitting flippant, not to say farcical, pieces into the collection.

Which echoed something that has stuck in my mind over the years.  I once heard Jackie Leven, responding to someone in his audience’s half-joking plea tell of a Townes Van Zandt gig where someone shouted out requesting him, “Play us a happy song“.  Professional miserablist and songwriter’s songwriter Townes’ response?  “These are the happy songs.”  Jackie wrote a song about TVZ called Townes at the Borderline – as good a portrait of anyone as you’ll find in song .  It’s on Jackie’s last lovely album, made with long-term collaborator Michael Cosgrave, Wayside shrines and the code of the traveling man,  and on a collection of Townes songs by other artists called Riding on the range, which is well worth exploring.  There are better lines to quote but they don’t make as good a link as what’s to come next than, “I noticed in his guitar case / he had pictures of lost gods / and a small notebook with the cover torn / for when he was lost in words.”

So back briefly – lost words, lost another way – to Thomas Hardy.  Not long ago I posted here in full his poem The goldfinch, including the later suppressed last verse wherein a lover’s gift of a small exquisite feathered creature was rendered as “gave her the bird“.  More of the same from John Keats in his Ode to a nightingale, in stanza 6 of that double-edged ode to joy:

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain –
To thy high requiem become a sod.

And a bit of a miserable one at that.


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