Friday, April 6, 2012


Please bear with me as I stay with Robert Bridges's "April 1885" a moment longer.  My favorite lines of the poem are these:  "On high the hot sun smiles, and banks of cloud uptower/In bulging heads that crowd for miles the dazzling south."  I am reminded of the paintings and drawings by Samuel Palmer that appear in this post.  Clouds -- white clouds, bright clouds -- were an essential part of Palmer's visionary vision of the world.

                              Samuel Palmer, "The White Cloud" (c. 1832)

The lines also remind me of the final stanza of Philip Larkin's "Cut Grass"(another of those un-Larkinesque Larkin poems that often go unnoticed):

White lilac bowed,
Lost lanes of Queen Anne's lace,
And that high-builded cloud
Moving at summer's pace.

Philip Larkin, High Windows (Faber and Faber 1974).

                          Samuel Palmer, "The Bright Cloud" (c. 1833-1834)

And, finally, the clouds of another visionary, Ivor Gurney:

               There Was Such Beauty

There was such beauty in the dappled valley
As hurt the sight, as stabbed the heart to tears.
The gathered loveliness of all the years
Hovered thereover, it seemed, eternally
Set for men's joy.  Town, tower, trees, river
Under a royal azure sky for ever
Up-piled with snowy towering bulks of cloud:
A herald-day of spring more wonderful
Than her true own.  Trumpets cried aloud
In sky, earth, blood; no beast, no clod so dull
But the power felt of the day, and of the giver
Was glad for life, humble at once and proud.
Kyrie Eleison, and Gloria,
Credo, Jubilate, Magnificat:
The whole world gathered strength to praise the day.

P. J. Kavanagh (editor), Collected Poems of Ivor Gurney (Oxford University Press 1982).

           Samuel Palmer, "Drawing for 'The Bright Cloud'" (c. 1831-1832)

A non-cloud-related note:  I may be guilty of oversimplification, but I think that "as stabbed the heart to tears" gets close to the emotional core of a great deal of Gurney's poetry.  But I hasten to add that I am no expert on the matter.  It's just a thought.

                               Samuel Palmer, "The Bright Cloud" (c. 1834)


Anonymous said...

"On high the hot sun smiles, and banks of cloud uptower/In bulging heads that crowd for miles the dazzling south."

Yesterday my wife and I were taking a walk about our neighborhood in God's great,green Pacific Northwest U.S., and saw exactly such clouds--much to our intense delight.


Stephen Pentz said...

Tim: thank you very much for visiting, and for your thoughts.

Here's a nice coincidence: we may have been out for a stroll around the same time in the same locale. I took a walk in Seattle yesterday afternoon and saw cloud towers off to the south of Puget Sound. Perhaps we saw the same ones!

Thanks again.