All Quiet along the Potomac and other poems/The Captive Cloud
THE CAPTIVE CLOUD.
A CLOUD crept low in the valley's breast,
Like a weary bird in its cradle nest;
Its soft white arms round the forest flung,
Whilst its dusky feet to the streamlet clung.
When, lo! Ranger Westwind shook the leaves
And unloosed the zone of the cloudy sheaves—
Bore away, unblest by priest or charm,
The unwilling cloud on his lifted arm.
Backward the mist as it stooped was swayed,
Till its snowy robe on the crag was frayed,
And her tears were thick on the tasselled corn,
On the spider's web and the sweet hawthorn.
Heavenward going, the ravished mist
Still wept as she vanished, and softly kissed
Each living thing on the valley-side,
With the last good-bye of the mountain-bride.
The valley sighed as it saw her go
In her bridal robing of shining snow;
The streamlet muttered a troubled prayer
That his parted love might be happy there.
Upward, still upward, the soaring cloud
Drew her bridal veil like a fun'ral shroud,
Shrinking away from her bridegroom's clasp,
Till she struggled out from his stalwart grasp.
* * * * *
Then upward, still upward, she floated away
Before Heaven's court this injustice to lay;
The wind whistled shrilly to call her again,
But whistle and bluster were idle and vain.
The Lord of the winds heard the sorrowful tale,
And pitied the mourner so weary and pale;
So gave her permission, as sweet summer rain,
To kiss her old love in the valley again.
She called to a shadow, who cloaked her about
With a storm-suit of gray; but still shining out
Gleamed the hue of her robe, the scarf in her hair,
In spite of all shadowy counsel and care.
Then the Lord set his seal ('twas a radiant bow),
And bid the fair summer rain valley-ward go,
Down, down to the heart of the whispering corn,
Down, down to the stream by the blossoming thorn.