Beautiful cloud! with folds soft and fair,
Swimming in the pure quiet air!
Your coat bathed in sunlight, while below
Your shadow moves over the valley, slow.
Beautiful cloud! I wish I were you
In your calm way over land and sea:
To rest on your unrolling skirts, and look
On Earth as an open book;
On streams that tie her realms with silver bands,
And the long highways that seam her lands;
And hear her humming cities, and the sound
Of the great ocean breaking ground.
I would sail on your airborne car
To blooming regions distant and far,
To where the sun of Jerusalem shines
On His own olive-groves and vines,
Or the soft lights of Italy's bright sky
In smiles on her ruins lie.
But I would court the winds to let us rest
Over Africa long fettered and oppressed,
Whose sons many times over have heard the call that comes
From the Zulu battlefields and tombs,
And risen, and drawn the shield, and on the foe
Have dealt the swift and desperate blow,
And the Briton's power is cloven, and the stroke
Has touched its chains, and they are broke.
We would linger til the sunset there
Should come, to purple the air,
And you reflect along the sacred ground
The red light streaming around.
Bright whisp! for the summer noontide made!
Your peerless beauty still shall fade.
The sun, that fills with light each glistening fold,
Shall set, and leave you dark and cold:
The blast will rend your form, or you may frown
In the dark heaven when storms come down,
And weep in rain, till man's inquiring eye
Miss you, forever from the sky.