Through the ages, in every land, where the sky is not always limpid and blue, man's imagination has inevitably been seduced by the clouds with their ever-changing, often fantastical shapes. Man has always divined from them the imaginary or real beings that occupy his mind. Everyone can discover something pleasurable in them; the contours of their vapours are so light, so indistinct... a breeze can transform them, a breath of wind destroy them. In the evening, when the sun has disappeared into the horizon, as its purple reflexions still colour the sky, clouds cut up into bizarre shapes are heaped up against the sunset; moved with religious feeling by the solemn and majestic calm of this poetic hour, man likes to contemplate the sky; then he is able to discern among the clouds giants and castles, and every brilliant fantasy of his exalted imagination. Beautiful colours of purple and gold will lend to his dream a magnificent and grandiose refulgence rather than charming and gracious; and yet in the airy pink vapours that hover here and there in the sky, one can perceive the poetic contours of a chorus of dancing girls. Then, almost involuntarily allowing himself to drift into a dream that absorbs him completely, little by little the man forgets the things around him; no longer seeing anything, no longer hearing anything around him, he brings a realistic character to his illusion, gives life to the shapes he has divined and assists in the grandiose spectacle that he himself has created. These giants that he has obligingly discovered engage each other in terrible battles in the vast field of the sky. From time to time one of the most valiant falls in an iridescence of dazzling colours; soon the victors vanish too and these indomitable warriors are thrown to the ground by a gentle breeze. Then the illusion is destroyed, the vision has disappeared and one falls back to earth with the same disagreeable sensation one feels in the morning at the end of a lovely dream.
   But clouds do not always bestow such hallucinations, their shapes are not always sufficiently cut out for the imagination, however obliging, to discover human forms in them; but clouds always make us dream; if their bizarre forms do not transport our imagination to lands of glittering dreams, their rapid passage plunges our soul into deeper philosophical meditations. Because man has in his heart almost a narrow and secret thread which connects him directly to all aspects of nature, so that when he sees some aspect of it he feels himself prey to an emotion that varies infinitely but is almost always present. He likes to confide his sorrows of the heart to the murmuring brook, to the tree under whose shade he likes to sit. How many times, in a rapture of delight, did I tell my troubles to leaves and the birds, in the belief that I was opening my heart to living creatures who understood me, yet at the same time that I was doing so to superior and divine beings who would provide me with poetic consolation. But nothing in nature summons so many confessions as clouds. On many occasions I have charged them with commissions which, alas, they have never carried out. I make them the confidants of my sorrows and straight away they flee to the horizon. Left alone I feverishly dream that these lovely messengers come to be endowed with life, that at least they will approach God to request some consolation for me, and so I foolishly hope until another cloud returns to take up my sweet illusion once more. Oh lovely clouds, how many vows have you heard and not repeated, how many sorrows have you seen and not dispelled, how many despairs have you been witness to that you have not consoled. And above all from those in a strange land who weep eternally for their wife, their children, their sweet homeland, and who, like Ulysses, lament for the wisp of smoke escaping from their home. And from those who, captive in chains, left for years, eyes fixed on the horizon, the minute searching of their anxious and attentive gaze seeking out a sail, a signal, see nothing but you, the airy clouds, the only witnesses of their misfortune, the only confidants of their secret confessions. Oh lovely clouds, thank you for all the consolations you have given to the unfortunate. Because your appearance has filled them with that dreamy melancholy, that poetic sadness which alone can alleviate the woes that no one can calm, because it purifies them, raises them up and makes of them a subtle and divine feeling that fills those who bear it with a rightful pride, by making poetic and philosophical something which would otherwise be nothing but wretched.

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