Charles Harpur

Here you will find the Long Poem The Cloud of poet Charles Harpur

The Cloud

One summer morn, out of the sea-waves wild, 
A speck-like Cloud, the season?s fated child, 
Came softly floating up the boundless sky, 
And o?er the sun-parched hills all brown and dry. 
Onward she glided through the azure air, 
Borne by its motion without toil or care, 
When looking down in her ethereal joy, 
She marked earth?s moilers at their hard employ; 

?And oh!? she said, ?that by some act of grace 
?Twere mine to succour yon fierce-toiling race, 
To give the hungry meat, the thirsty drink? 
The thought of good is very sweet to think.? 

The day advanced, and the cloud greater grew, 
And greater; likewise her desire to do 
Some charity to men had more and more, 
As the long sultry summer day on wore, 
Greatened and warmed within her fleecy breast, 
Like a dove fledging in its downy nest. 

The heat waxed fiercer, until all the land 
Clared in the sun as ?twere a monstrous brand 
And the shrunk rivers, few and far between, 
Like molten metal lightened in the scene. 
Ill could Earth?s sons endure their toilsome state, 
Though still they laboured, for their need was great, 
And many a long beseeching look they sped 
Towards that fair cloud, with many a sigh that said: 
?We famish for thy bounty! For our sake 
O break thou! in a showery blessing, break!? 

?I feel, and fain would help you, ? said the cloud, 
And towards the earth her bounteous being bowed; 
But then remem?bring a tradition she 
Had in her youth learned from her native sea, 
That when a cloud adventures from the skies 
Too near the altar of the hills, it dies! 
Awhile she wavered and was blown about 
Hither and thither by the winds of doubt; 
But in the midst of heaven at length all still 
She stood; then suddenly, with a keen thrill 
Of light, she said within herself, ?I will! 
Yea, in the glad strength of devotion, I Will help 
you, though in helping you I die.? 

Filled with this thought?s divinity, the cloud 
Grew worldlike vast, as earthward more she bowed! 
Oh, never erewhile had she dreamed her state 
So great might be, beneficently great! 
O?er the parched fields in her angelic love 
She spread her wide wings like a brooding dove 
Till as her purpose deepened, drawing near, 
Divinely awful did her front appear, 
And men and beasts all trembled at the view, 
And the woods bowed, though well all creatures knew 
That near in her, to every kind the same, 
A great predestined benefactress came. 

And then wide-flashed throughout her full-grown form 
The glory of her will! the pain and storm 
Of life?s dire dread of death, whose mortal threat 
From Christ himself drew agonizing sweat, 
Flashed seething out of rents amid her heaps 
Of lowering gloom, and thence with arrowy leaps 
Hissed jagging downward, till a sheety glare 
Illumined all the illimitable air; 
The thunder followed, a tremendous sound, 
Loud doubling and reverberating round; 
Strong was her will, but stronger yet the power 
Of love, that now dissolved her in a shower, 
Dropping in blessings to enrich the earth 
With health and plenty at one blooming birth. 

Far as the rain extended o?er the land, 
A splendid bow the freshened landscape spanned 
Like a celestial arc, hung in the air 
By angel artists, to illumine there 
The parting triumph of that spirit fair. 
The rainbow vanished, but the blessing craved 
Rested upon the land the cloud had saved.