The Cloud

Original Text: 

The Poetical Works of Charles Harpur, ed. Elizabeth Perkins (London, Sydney and Melbourne: Angus & Robertson, 1984): 254. Online at the University of Sydney Library at http://setis.library.usyd.edu.au/ozlit

1One Summer morn, out of the sea-waves wild
2A speck-like Cloud, the season's fated child,
3Came softly floating up the boundless sky,
4And o'er the sun-parched hills all brown and dry.
5Onward she glided, through the azure air
6Borne by its motion without toil or care:
7When looking down in her ethereal joy,
9And -- Oh! (she said) that by some act of grace
10'Twere mine to succour yon o'erlabored race;
11To give the hungry meat, the thirsty drink --
12The thought of good is very sweet to think.
13The day advanced -- and the Cloud greater grew,
14And greater: also her desire to do
15Some charity to men had more and more
16As the long sultry Summer day on wore,
17Greatened and warmed within her fleecy breast,
18Like a dove fledging in its downy nest.
19The heat waxed fiercer, until all the land
20Glared in the sun, as 'twere a monstrous brand,
21And the shrunk rivers, few and far between,
22Like molten metal lightened in the scene.
23Ill could Earth's sons endure their toilsome state,
24Though still they laboured, for their need was great.
25And many a long beseeching look they sped
26Tow'rds that fair Cloud, with many a sigh, that said
27We famish for thy bounty! For our sake
28O break thou! in a showery blessing, break!
30And tow'rds the Earth her bounteous being bowed.
31But then remem'bring a tradition she
32Had while a child learned from her native Sea,
33That when a Cloud adventures from the skies
34Too near the altar of the hills -- it dies!
35Awhile she wavered and was blown about
36Hither and thither, by the winds of doubt.
37But in the midst of heaven, at length all still
38She stood: -- then suddenly, with an instant thrill
39Of light, she said within herself -- I will!
40Yea, in the glad strength of devotion, I
41Will help you, though, in helping you, I die."
42Filled with this thought's divinity, the Cloud
43Grew world-like vast, as earthward more she bowed!
44Oh, never erewhile had she dreamed her state
45So great might be, beneficently great!
46O'er the parched fields in her angelic love
47She spread her wide wings like a brooding dove:
48Till, as her purpose deepened, drawing near,
49So God-like terrible did her front appear,
50That men and beasts all trembled at the view,
51And the woods bowed, -- though well all creatures knew
52That near in her, to every kind the same,
53A great predestined Benefactress came
54Yea, I will help you! Said the Cloud again:
55Receive me -- lo, I die for you -- in rain !
56Wide flashed then -- yea, through all her full-grown form
57The glory of her will! the agony and the storm
58Of Life's dire dread of Death, whose mortal threat
59From Christ himself drew memorable sweat! --
60Flashed seething out of rents amid her heaps
61Of lowering gloom, and thence with arrowy leaps
63Illumined all the illimitable air!
64The thunder followed, a tremendous sound
65Loud doubling and reverberating round!
67Through all the shuddering mountains manifold!
68Strong was her will, but stronger yet the power
69Of Love, that now dissolved her in a shower
71With health and plenty at one blooming birth.
72She bled in rain -- bled unto death; but died
74Far as the rain extended o'er the Land,
75A splendid bow the freshened prospect spann'd,
76Like a celestial arc, as hung in air
77By Angel artists, and as being there
78The parting triumph of the Spirit pure
79Of Love self-sacrificed, and thence made sure,
80Because in record on the Eternal writ
81In faith and hope, and therefore one with it:
82One in duration, and in glory one
83With all that Godward out of Time hath gone.
84-- The rainbow vanished, but the blessing craved
85Long rested upon the land the Cloud had saved.

Notes

8] moilers: people engaged in hard work; drudges. Back to Line
29] fain: with pleasure, gladly Back to Line
62] sheety: resembling sheets, i.e., a glare that is broadly spread and white. Back to Line
66] intonation: the rise and fall of the voice in speaking. Back to Line
70] impregn: to make pregnant. Back to Line
73] beatified: in Roman Catholic ritual, to proclaim a deceased person one of the blessed, and thus worthy of public religious veneration; to exalt (someone) above all others. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1883
Publication Notes: 

Poems (Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide: George Robinson, 1883)

RPO poem Editors: 
Cameron La Follette
Data entry: Sharine Leung
RPO Edition: 
2012
Rhyme: 
Form: