the rapids of the white rocks

Limpid and shallow
are the rapids of the torrent;
The green reeds
I can almost touch
The people from the huts
to the east and west of the water,
Are washing silk
by the light of the moon.

On tiptoe over the rocks
I return to the water’s edge,
Playing with the water
I feel a boundless emotion.
When the sun goes down,
the cold settles on the river,
And the drifting clouds
grow pale and evanescent.

Wang Wei
P’ei Ti


White clouds and whitecaps,
Both appear like foaming waves;
Oh, for fisherfolk—
Surely they can give me answer,
Which are the white waves of the sea?

Ki no Tsurayuki


Amid cloudy mists,
in a second its view has changed
one hundred times.

Matsuo Bashō

autumn 1691

how easily it rose
and now it hesitates,
the moon in clouds…

Matsuo Bashō


There is no moon;
the sun has left for lands unknown;
the circle of the stars and planets
has been erased from heaven.
Of day and night
all distinction is obscured.
What is this crime
committed by the serried ranks of clouds!


death poem

A tune of non-being
Filling the void:
Spring sun
Snow whiteness
Bright clouds
Clear wind.

Daido Ichi’i

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


Haven’t you sometimes seen a cloud that looked
like a centaur ?
Or a leopard perhaps ?
Or a wolf ? Or a bull ?