From GM Hopkins, “Hurrahing in Harvest”
"…up above, what wind-walks! what lovely
Of silk-sack clouds! has wilder, wilful-wavier
Meal-drift moulded ever and melted across skies?"
Today in Greensboro it is windy and cool with bright white clouds skimming across the skies from west to east all with the same “floor” or altitude.
Although it was Autumn, Hopkins was noticing a similar thing. The excerpt above is from Hopkins’ great poem, “Hurrahing in Harvest,” this part being about clouds skimming across the sky.
Hopkins liked coining words that fit his need for meaning and meter, and such is wind-walk. The idea, I think, is that of the wind moving the clouds in rank or formation, as soldiers might march across a field. Kind of like outside my window right now.
The clouds seem to be both soft and delicate (like silk), and rough and ready (like sack cloth), at the same time – hence “silk-sack.” These “silk-sack” clouds, “wind-walking” through the skies are "wild and" “wilful,” as in headstrong and unpredictable.
I am reminded of lying on my back with my daughter, back when such things interested her, and watching the clouds, making out the shapes with her. How fast they would change! The dog's head would last just a moment before dissipating or crashing into another shape. There is an exciting unpredictable quality to clouds.
These clouds remind Hopkins of white flour or “meal” as they drift across the sky, ever changing – molding and melting (coming together, coming apart) – as they go (again, like the clouds outside my window).
As to how Hopkins responds to this – next time.