Verse > William Wordsworth > Complete Poetical Works
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TO THE CLOUDS

          ARMY of Clouds! ye winged Hosts in troops
          Ascending from behind the motionless brow
          Of that tall rock, as from a hidden world,
          Oh whither with such eagerness of speed?
          What seek ye, or what shun ye? of the gale
          Companions, fear ye to be left behind,
          Or racing o'er your blue ethereal field
          Contend ye with each other? of the sea
          Children, thus post ye over vale and height
          To sink upon your's mother's lap--and rest?                 10
          Or were ye rightlier hailed, when first mine eyes
          Beheld in your impetuous march the likeness
          Of a wide army pressing on to meet
          Or overtake some unknown enemy?--
          But your smooth motions suit a peaceful aim;
          And Fancy, not less aptly pleased, compares
          Your squadrons to an endless flight of birds
          Aerial, upon due migration bound
          To milder climes; or rather do ye urge
          In caravan your hasty pilgrimage                            20
          To pause at last on more aspiring heights
          Than these, and utter your devotion there
          With thunderous voice? Or are ye jubilant,
          And would ye, tracking your proud lord the Sun,
          Be present at his setting; or the pomp
          Of Persian mornings would ye fill, and stand
          Poising your splendours high above the heads
          Of worshippers kneeling to their up-risen God?
          Whence, whence, ye Clouds! this eagerness of speed?
          Speak, silent creatures.--They are gone, are fled,          30
          Buried together in yon gloomy mass
          That loads the middle heaven; and clear and bright
          And vacant doth the region which they thronged
          Appear; a calm descent of sky conducting
          Down to the unapproachable abyss,
          Down to that hidden gulf from which they rose
          To vanish--fleet as days and months and years,
          Fleet as the generations of mankind,
          Power, glory, empire, as the world itself,
          The lingering world, when time hath ceased to be.           40
          But the winds roar, shaking the rooted trees,
          And see! a bright precursor to a train
          Perchance as numerous, overpeers the rock
          That sullenly refuses to partake
          Of the wild impulse. From a fount of life
          Invisible, the long procession moves
          Luminous or gloomy, welcome to the vale
          Which they are entering, welcome to mine eye
          That sees them, to my soul that owns in them,
          And in the bosom of the firmament                           50
          O'er which they move, wherein they are contained,
          A type of her capacious self and all
          Her restless progeny.
                                 A humble walk
          Here is my body doomed to tread, this path,
          A little hoary line and faintly traced,
          Work, shall we call it, of the shepherd's foot
          Or of his flock?--joint vestige of them both.
          I pace it unrepining, for my thoughts
          Admit no bondage and my words have wings.
          Where is the Orphean lyre, or Druid harp,                   60
          To accompany the verse? The mountain blast
          Shall be our 'hand' of music; he shall sweep
          The rocks, and quivering trees, and billowy lake,
          And search the fibres of the caves, and they
          Shall answer, for our song is of the Clouds
          And the wind loves them; and the gentle gales--
          Which by their aid re-clothe the naked lawn
          With annual verdure, and revive the woods,
          And moisten the parched lips of thirsty flowers--
          Love them; and every idle breeze of air                     70
          Bends to the favourite burthen. Moon and stars
          Keep their most solemn vigils when the Clouds
          Watch also, shifting peaceably their place
          Like bands of ministering Spirits, or when they lie,
          As if some Protean art the change had wrought,
          In listless quiet o'er the ethereal deep
          Scattered, a Cyclades of various shapes
          And all degrees of beauty. O ye Lightnings!
          Ye are their perilous offspring; and the Sun--
          Source inexhaustible of life and joy,                       80
          And type of man's far-darting reason, therefore
          In old time worshipped as the god of verse,
          A blazing intellectual deity--
          Loves his own glory in their looks, and showers
          Upon that unsubstantial brotherhood
          Visions with all but beatific light
          Enriched--too transient were they not renewed
          From age to age, and did not, while we gaze
          In silent rapture, credulous desire
          Nourish the hope that memory lacks not power                90
          To keep the treasure unimpaired. Vain thought!
          Yet why repine, created as we are
          For joy and rest, albeit to find them only
          Lodged in the bosom of eternal things?
                                                              1842.


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