Luke Howard – Namer of Clouds – 250th anniversary

James McBey, View of Dunkirk

Tottenham is celebrating Luke Howard

The father of meteorology!

Here is a link to the exhibitions page at The Room



When, from the water’s quiet mirror,

A mist floats off like a carpet   

And the moon, wrapped in its undulations,

Revels in a haunted, haunting play,

Then we are pleased as children;

Watching it lift up the mountain,

Deepen and then spread,

Bar after bar, to become the sort

Of lowering sky that can go either way:

Soak us or pass on, overhead.


And if from there it should be raised

Up to a thinner atmosphere

How firmly based, how crisp it seems,

Towering, gathering all its splendour

For a proclamation on the plenitude of power

(Since what we fear may well be our fate).

We tremble in the shadow of its threatening.


Say it climbs higher still;

The threat now utterly removed

Into a heavenly lightness,

A mere something there that dissolves

Ever so softly; less than a patter of fleeces

Moving, deliciously combed,

Upwards from below, towards

Their Shepherd, into his lap and hand.


Yet all must be brought down

By the weight of our world.

Pierced, when dense and very large,

The stack must thunderously

Discharge, as armies do that roll out

In splendid array only to disintegrate;

The earth then receiving their remains.

But keep the eye on where it frays,

Describing what comes down while feeling

That it’s upwards we should always gaze.


After Goethe –  stratus, cumulus, cirrus, nimbus 




Holy mountain, realm of seem.

Goaded by a breeze, it sways,

As if some flimsy palanquin

Whose gathered gauzes drift apart.

It glories in continuous metamorphosis,

Now immobile, now a dream:

Can you see it and believe your eyes?


Trust to the strength of your own projection,

Choosing to define, while the indefinite

Ramps a lion or unfurls an elephant

Or turns a camel’s neck into a Jabberwock

– Until the army of barmy

Images wrecks itself on a rock.

The trumpeter heralds his own dissolution

Well before a judgement can be sounded.


Yet Howard gave us an instrument

For getting the airborne grounded

By latching on to the gone, and firming up

The ephemeral.  He was the first to hold it fast

By naming drifts, compactions,

Dispersals and descents,

For which the planet offers thanks.


Luke Howard, “Namer of Clouds”, (1772 – 1864) – after Goethe 

Both versions by Anthony Howell

The story goes that when Luke Howard received these poems in the post he could not believe that they were really from Goethe and threw them into the waste-paper bin!

And please put in your diary the 22 November – Poetry reading on ‘The weather’ – open mike – starting at 7 pm at The Room.

About anthonyhowelljournal

Poet, essayist, dancer, performance artist....
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