For Joseph Cornell, birds symbolized flight and song. Parrots and cockatoos, in particular, were fabored inhabitants of his boxes and collage scenes. In the draft of a statement called "Parrots Pasta and Pergolesi" Cornell explained the genesis of the parrot and cockatoo boxes:
"Magic window of yesterday... Penshop windows splashed with white and tropical plumage. The kind of revelation symptomatic of city wanderings in another era." (quoted in D. Ades, "The Transcendental Surrealism of Joseph Cornell," Joseph Cornell, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1980, p. 37)
Dawn Ades has suggested that the artist's association of birds with the bel canto singer Giudetta Pasta and the 18th century composer Giovanni Battista Pergolesi may derive from stories of cockatoos being able to mimic arias from operas (ibid.).
Cornell's use of collage, like that of Schwitter's, embraced the process of fragmentation and recombination of everyday images. Surrealist 'syntax' provided him with the free association of objects. Hence, if birds can signify flight, then in the chain of linked ideas flight can also be associated with absence--a corollary to the process of collage as a desire to create a new totality from fragments of reality.
In The Storm That Never Came, Cornell uses an image of a balloon to reinforce the notion of flight suggested by the birds. It is almost as if one is looking at a photograph from an exotic travel guide, showing a glimpse of a curious land inhabited by giants and birds, which can only be reached by balloon or by the schooner shown in the postage stamp.
On the verso of the work, Cornell has affixed a torn fragment from a German edition of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. The alliteration of the play's title in German, Der Mitsommersnachtstraum, echoes in Cornell's naming of the collage. In particular, Cornell played on the aural similarity between the English "storm" and the German "traum," or "dream," again alluding to the haunting atmosphere of this landscape. As Carter Ratcliff has noted, "the Surrealists... preferred the disjunctions of dream, by which they appear to have meant everything from genuine nightmare to a carefully cultivated romance with the absurd" (Joseph Cornell: Mechanic of the Ineffable," exh. cat., op. cit, New York, 1980, pp. 53-54).