Poems Without Frontiers

Poems in Translation

David Paley






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Clouds
David Paley

Driven by winds of fury
And the urgency of war,
Fleets of warships cross the sky
Demanding rights of navigation.
They steam in line abreast
With no request for passage,
Holding course for conflict,
Ignorant of protocol,
And unaware of nautical convention.

The guns of distant warfare
Must be sounding far beyond
For, the sea above is silent
And brings no whisper to the ear;
But reinforcements hurry by
To join the main attack,
Led by hardened captains,
Whose vessels were detained
In bringing up the rear.

Then, arrays of warring columns
Break the cover of the night
Like advancing armies
Marching through the land
In the glow of eastern light.
From their battlemented towers,
The gods select the moment
To strike upon their anvils
And sound the clarion for advance
To demonstrate their might.

The world is threatened
With impending doom
And battles rage throughout the day
As patchy scraps, blown by furious blasts,
Hurry by, too late, to join the fray.
But forces are consumed by fire
In a last and desperate charge
Until the black of night regains control
As flashes cease their anger
And the crash of cannon dies away.

But better counsels now prevail
And treaties are in the wind.
Coaches, drawn by silent horses
Across the wide expanse,
Carry hopeful artists
Who journey to destinations
Where commissions may be found.
Now, they paint the gallery
In colours of brighter hue
Restoring order to pavilions
With gilded clouds and sunbeams
Cascading from a higher path
Upon the battered ground.

Kings in their benevolence
Promise lasting peace
And the sun begins to smile again
With continental breadth.
Ministers in council
Smooth their furrowed brows
To modify their utterance
Now hostilities have ceased.
For, the circumstance of time
Has blown the wind of change
To end grim visaged war
Conquered by the gilded east.

Trade and commerce are now restored
And normal life has been resumed.
The smoke that rises is from incense
Instead of from the lives consumed,
For, now the world seeks expiation
And turns its energies to exploration.
Those white sails, billowing in triumph
Through the bluest oceans,
Are merchants returning safely
With cargoes rich and banners flying
From a voyage to Eldorado
And successful speculation.

Wisps of white in the highest skies
Show bunting stretched in welcome
As sunlight is reflected brightly
From bands of marching soldiers
Who wend their homeward way.
Shepherds drive their sheep
Through melting alpine snow
To mountain pastures
And summer grazing
Far beyond the hills,
Where ice floes drift abandoned
In the blue of Arctic rills.

If cathedrals invite renaissance pictures
To be painted on their ceilings,
The heavens are an easel
Where vistas grace our sphere.
They spread our narrow confines
Across the broadest canvas
Where, from a magic needle,
Our tapestries appear.

Clouds are puffs of vapour
But they contain our dreams;
They publish to the skies
All that we have hurled.
Dreams are merely inspiration
Unconstrained by borders
Floating in a freedom
Beyond our little world.

They look across horizons
From constructions in the mind
Where they let imagination soar;
So, let the spirit be triumphant;
Whisper sighs upon the air
And see your reverie parade;
Set sail upon majestic heights
And see your thoughts portrayed.