Cloud Poems

Norman Nicholson was a poet who lived in the same house in Millom from birth until death. When he died in 1987 at the age of 73 his obituary in the Times described him as “the most gifted English Christian provincial poet of his century”.


Clouds are not dreams, but dreams
Take the shape of clouds.

Up glass stems of air
The steaming saps rise
To bloom as cumulus:
Meadowsweet and white
Elderflower and may.

Turned like cups of clay
Pummelled and thumbed by the wind,
Like bubbles bent on a sigh
They stream along the air.

Every breath we draw
Modifies the sky, adjusts
Temperature and pressure,
Shapes and directs the clouds,
And the warm draught from a kitchen fire
Stirs its spoon among the stars.

The shape we see
Is a shape we dream,
Forming a firmament
In retina and brain;

But the true shape
We neither see nor know -
A barometric order
Beyond the knack of eye,
The gauge of mercury.

Dreams are not clouds, but clouds
Take the shape of dreams.

A few poems by Larkin


Quarterly, is it, money reproaches me:
"Why do you let me lie here wastefully?
I am all you never had of goods and sex,
You could get them still by writing a few cheques."

So I look at others, what they do with theirs:
They certainly don't keep it upstairs.
By now they've a second house and car and wife:
Clearly money has something to do with life

- In fact, they've a lot in common, if you enquire:
You can't put off being young until you retire,
And however you bank your screw, the money you save
Won't in the end buy you more than a shave.

I listen to money singing. It's like looking down
From long French windows at a provincial town,
The slums, the canal, the churches ornate and mad
In the evening sun. It is intensely sad.

Since the majority of me

Since the majority of me
Rejects the majority of you,
Debating ends forwith, and we
Divide. And sure of what to do

We disinfect new blocks of days
For our majorities to rent
With unshared friends and unwalked ways,
But silence too is eloquent:

A silence of minorities
That, unopposed at last, return
Each night with cancelled promises
They want renewed. They never learn.

To put one brick upon another

To put one brick upon another,
Add a third and then a forth,
Leaves no time to wonder whether
What you do has any worth.

But to sit with bricks around you
While the winds of heaven bawl
Weighing what you should or can do
Leaves no doubt of it at all.

The Importance of Elsewhere

Lonely in Ireland, since it was not home,
Strangeness made sense. The salt rebuff of speech,
Insisting so on difference, made me welcome:
Once that was recognised, we were in touch

Their draughty streets, end-on to hills, the faint
Archaic smell of dockland, like a stable,
The herring-hawker's cry, dwindling, went
To prove me separate, not unworkable.

Living in England has no such excuse:
These are my customs and establishments
It would be much more serious to refuse.
Here no elsewhere underwrites my existence.