the cloud

Lightly in the azure air
Soars a cloud, emerging free
Like a virgin from the fair
Blue sea;

Or an Aphrodite sweet,
Floating upright and empearled
In the shell, about its feet

Undulating overhead,
How its changing body glows!
On its shoulder dawn hath spread
A rose.

Marble, snow, blend amorously
In that form by sunlight kissed—
Slumbering Antiope
Of mist!

Sailing unto distant goal,
Over Alps and Apennines,
Sister of the woman-soul,
It shines;

Till my heart flies forth at last
On the wings of passion warm,
And I yearn to gather fast
Its form.

Reason saith: “Mere vapour thing!
Bursting bubble! Yet, we deem,
Holds this wind-distorted ring
Our dream.”

Faith declareth: “Beauty seen,
Like a cloud, is but a thought,
Or a breath, that, having been,
Is naught.

“Have thy vision. Build it proud.
Let thy soul be full thereof.
Love a woman—love a cloud—
But love!”

Théophile Gautier