Introduction

One unusual characteristic of ”The Cloud”, a poem by Shelley, is that it’s written in first person from a cloud’s perspective. The cloud is spoken throughout the poem. This catches the readers attention right away, as we are used to examining clouds but are not used to hearing from them. There is a rhyme scheme in each stanza – referring to an end rhyme pattern – but it is not consistent throughout the poem. The meter also varies, beginning in dactyl, which is one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables, as in the first words ‘I bring fresh’, but varying from line to line, as well. 

Stanza 1

I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
In their noonday dreams
.

The poets describe in a first-person narrative that the clouds bring water to nourish the plants and the vegetation. Through evaporation, it collects water from the seas and the oceans a brings light shade for the leaves on a hot sunny day.

Stanza 2

From my wings are shaken the dews that waken
The sweet buds every one,
When rocked to rest on their mother’s breast,
As she dances about the sun
.

As the wind blows in the early cloudy morning the dew falls and showers on the buds it is shaken and wakes the buds who start making noises. They had rocked themselves on their mother’s breasts but start dancing as the clouds shake.

Stanza 3

I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
And whiten the green plains under,
And then again I dissolve it in rain,
And laugh as I pass in thunder
.

The hail when hits the earth is broken and spreads on the earth the same way when the flail hits the grain to separate the grain and the husk. This whitens the green grasses and plains and dissolves them in rain. It takes different forms as it appears as dew, sometimes as hail. Though it rains and the sky is clear without any trees or clouds.

Stanza 4

I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
And the nursling of the Sky;
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
I change, but I cannot die
.

The cloud says that it is the daughter of the Earth and Water and the sky is like a nurse to it. The clouds pass through the pores of the oceans and shores and the water enters the earth evaporates and again forms a cloud. It is a cycle. And hence it never dies.

Stanza 5

For after the rain when with never a stain
The pavilion of Heaven is bare,
And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams
Build up the blue dome of air
,

The cloud here says that when the rain stops and it seems like it did not leave any stain the sky has become bare and empty. The sky again becomes clear and blue like usual.

Stanza 6

I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,
And out of the caverns of rain,
Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,
I arise and unbuild it again
.

The cloud silently laughs at its death and emerges once again, as a child from the womb or like a ghost from the tomb, and covers the sky.

Conclusion

In “The Cloud,” Shelley is again the myth-maker. The cloud is not merely a physical substance but seems to be an immortal minor divinity. By employing this form of personification, Shelley can present nature with the powers and attributes of immortals. Thus, his cloud is not only capable of changing its form almost at will but is incapable of dying as well: “I change, but I cannot die.”