I mentioned that John and I had joined The Cloud Appreciation Society, set up by Gavin Pretor-Pinney. There is, on the website, a photo gallery of weird cloud formations, taken by people from all over the world. Some of the cloudscapes are astonishing. I have always been fascinated by the different types of clouds and what they forecast weatherwise. We used to have ‘nature’ class at school and that’s where I learned all the different names of clouds, like ‘cumulus’, ‘cirrus’, ‘cumulonimbus’, ‘lenticular’, ‘cirrostratus’ etc. There are many more names put to clouds now than the ones I learned. And, it seems, a greater variety of clouds!
I have always loved the poem by Shelley, called ‘The Cloud’, which is written in his romantic style but if you look at it closely, it shows that he was very aware of the science of climate and weather conditions. He wasn’t just a ‘Hello, clouds, Hello sky’ kind of a guy! He had a keen intellect. Here’s the last verse but I recommend you look up the whole poem. It’s not only brilliant because of the words but the cadences of the rhythm are freewheeling and go bowling along with life giving energy – just like some types of clouds!
‘I am the daughter of earth and water,
And the nursling of the sky,
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
I change, but I cannot die.
For after the rain when with never a stain,
The pavilion of heaven is bare,
And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams,
Build up the blue dome of air,
I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,
And out of the caverns of rain,
Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,
I arise and unbuild it again.
by Percy Bysshe Shelley, born 4 August 1792 in Sussex, England.
Shelley died, aged only thirty years old, in Italy. He had been fond of sailing and built a boat, which was overtaken by a sudden storm near Leghorn. The boat went down instantly and he drowned, along with his companion. There was a law in Italy at the time which decreed that bodies cast up on the shore should be burned there and then, as a precaution against plague. And so it was that this happened, with Lord Byron, Leigh Hunt and Mr. Trelawney, among others, in solemn attendance. Shelley was much beloved by his friends in spite of the eccentricities and peculiarities of his character.
Another short poem of his, lines of which are often quoted today to illustrate certain circumstances which come to pass at regular intervals, is ‘Ozymandias’. It will only take a minute to read but it is enormously atmospheric and the lines very well worth remembering. Take note, any dictators reading this! Your time is limited.