Thursday, November 19, 2009

Student of Clouds

My online pal Jason posted about his love of paintings of clouds and I promised him a link to a poem by my favorite poet Billy Collins about that very subject. A good enough reason to post the poem here:

Student of Clouds

The emotion is to be found in the clouds,
not in the green solids of the sloping hills
or even in the gray signatures of rivers,
according to Constable, who was a student of clouds
and filled shelves of sketchbooks with their motion,
their lofty gesturing and sudden implications of weather.

Outdoors, he must have look up thousands of times,
his pencil trying to keep pace with their high voyaging
and the silent commotion of their eddying and flow.
Clouds would move beyond the outlines he would draw
as they moved within themselves, tumbling into their centers
and swirling off at the burning edges in vapors
to dissipate into the universal blue of the sky.

In photographs we can stop all this movement now
long enough to tag them with their Latin names.
Cirrus, nimbus, stratocumulus -
dizzying, romantic, authoritarian -
they bear their titles over the schoolhouses below
where their shapes and meanings are memorized.

High on the soft blue canvases of Constable
they are stuck in pigment, but his clouds appear
to be moving still in the wind of his brush,
inching out of England and the nineteenth century
and sailing over these meadows where I am walking,
bareheaded beneath this cupola of motion,
my thoughts arranged like paint on a high blue ceiling.

A good way to start the day, I hope.

(The Constable Collins refers to is John Constable, an English landscape painter.

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