Bodies of Water

Friday, May 15, 2009

Dear Maud,

Is anything so wondrous as a cloud?

Some cloak the sun, others don its glorious gowns; some speed their life through, others drift it dreamily away; some steeple, some plunge; some glower, some gleam. All are ever-changing and not what they seem; all are constellations of vapour – nought but bodies of water.

What are we, Maud, if not clouds drawn across an eternal sky?

Tellingly, man and these ‘rainbearing maidens’ share another trait: both are o’ertopped by, as Omar puts it, ‘that inverted bowl they call the Sky, whereunder crawling coop’d we live and die’.

And what of the heavens themselves? ’Tis no accident, I fancy, that the sky is the seat of gods. For across its airy expanse Zeus, ‘gatherer of the clouds’, shows most fully his face; and in its empyrean pastures Jehovah, whose son ‘cometh with clouds’, marshals his misty-fleeced flock.

Who better to end this clumsy cavalcade than Aristophanes, author of Clouds. According to his Strepsiades,

Some gentlemen… argue convincingly that the sky is a barbeque lid, and that it surrounds us, and that we’re the coals.

Surely, then, the young poet was right. ‘Look to the sky,’ I wrote, ‘for it is nothing.’ And everything therefore.

Oh, and another thing. Books are like clouds; certainly, on this parade they reigned.

Yours etc.