the cloud

Yonder, a climbing cloud, arrayed
Against the azure, seems to take
A sculpted form, like naked maid
Rising from a pure-rippling lake.

Standing in her shell opal-hued,
She floats over the clear blue air,
Figure of foam and froth, a nude,
Translucent Aphrodite fair.

One sees her vaguely contoured shape
Contort in softly shifting poses,
As on her satin back and nape
The dawning daybreak strews its roses.

Her snow-and-marble whites — like those
Correggio chiaroscuros, showing
Antiope lying a-doze —
Blend, lovingly together flowing…

She glides on light, higher above
Than any Alp or Appenine,
Primal reflection, sister of
Beauty’s ‘‘eternal feminine.’’

My soul, on passion’s wings, goes flying
To that cloud-body, bent upon
Love’s joy; and, brooking no denying,
Clutches her close, like Ixion.

Reason says: ‘‘Only smoke one sees
In shapes born of such dream-display,
Shadow buffeted by the breeze,
Bubble that bursts, then slips away…’’

Sentiment answers: ‘‘Oh? Dear me!
After all, what is beauty? For
Only a charming specter, she,
Blown on the wind, and then no more!

‘‘Let the ideal infuse your soul;
Love a cloud, love a woman, but,
With heaven-filled heart, love be your goal:
Love what you will!… No matter what!’’

Théophile Gautier

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