Poetry Sunday: A History of Weather

We've had a spring filled with eventful weather here, and now as we soon head into summer and the heart of hurricane season, we may be forgiven for being a bit anxious about what that season will bring.

Billy Collins, one of my favorite contemporary poets, has given some thought to weather and its history and, of course, he has written a poem about it.   

A History of Weather

  by Billy Collins

It is the kind of spring morning – candid sunlight
elucidating the air, a flower-ruffling breeze –
that makes me want to begin a history of weather,
a ten-page volume elegy for the atmospheres of the past,
the envelopes that have moved around the moving globe.

It will open by examining the cirrus clouds
that are now sweeping over this house into the next state,
and every chapter will step backwards in time
to illustrate the rain that fell on battlefields
and the winds that attended beheadings, coronations.

The snow flurries of Victorian London will be surveyed
along with the gales that blew off Renaissance caps.
The tornadoes of the Middle Ages will be explicated
and the long, overcast days of the Dark Ages.
There will be a section on the frozen nights of antiquity
and on the heat that shimmered in the deserts of the Bible.

The study will be hailed as ambitious and definitive,
for it will cover even the climate before the Flood
when showered moistened Eden and will conclude
with the mysteries of the weather before history
when unseen clouds drifted over an unpeopled world,
when not a soul lay in any of earth’s meadows gazing up
at the passing of enormous faces and animal shapes,
his jacket bunched into a pillow, an open book on his chest.


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