Analysis of “The Cloud” By Percy Bysshe Shelley

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The cloud by shelley, is a poem that uses the first person point of view in its narration. In the poem, the clouds give rain, snow, hail, moistures and provide shades. It is guided by thunder and lightning through infused electricity. Beams spread to over sky when the rising sun is covered by the clouds. When the wind removes the cloud cover, the stars and the moon gets reflections from the water bodies (Liu, Xiaochun, 54). In general, the poem is a vivid description of the water hydrological cycle. The title of the poem in itself is a metaphor that the poetess intends to communicate to the reader, about the dynamics of nature. Shelley explains vividly about the functioning of the water cycle, while placing the cloud at the center and personifying it with human capabilities to make the poem look alive and actionable (Liu, Xiaochun, 54). She makes the clouds to resemble a minor divinity by describing its non-terminable continuity.

The cloud, a poem by Shelley, obtained from (Shelley, Percy Bysshe, 28), makes use of different description of colors, size shapes, texture, sunlight, darkness, and movement of the clouds, whiles relating abstraction objects to concrete features. The theme of the poem is the hydrological cycle and its resulting water system. This paper presents a discussion of the different figures of speech and the use of imagery in the poem to create vivid images of processes and features in the poem.

In the first stanza, the cloud takes the credit of bringing fresh showers and quenching thirst flowers. Here, the reader is made to imagine of the goodness of the cloud. One can figure the looks of the thirsting flowers and the feeling of thirst. Thus, the poetess appeals to the senses of both sight and taste, especially when she talks about the seas and stream.

Any reader will imagine the difference between the seas and the streams as the size of the water body, hence, the size. Another appeal to the sense of sight in the poem, includes the phrases such as “light shade” (line 3), where the poet implies the intensity of the shade. The phrases: “whiten the green plains,” “the snow,” “pillow white,” “Lightning,” and “Heaven’s blue smile”, appeals to color and thus sight of the reader. These phrases have been applied in the vivid description of the different objects and processes in the poem, to give the reader a clearer image. The poem has also qualified many objects as concrete through giving the color, behavior, and texture. For instance, the lines: “From my wings are shaken the dews that waken” (line 5), “rocked to rest on their mother’s breast”, (line 7) “lashing hail” (line 9), and “With hurricane, fire, and snow” (line 10, stanza 5), makes the reader to imagine the nature of the particular features. The reader can also assume the texture of the objects, thus, appealing to the sense of touch. The poem creates a strong visual imagery by referring to the sunrise as ”sanguine” and describing its reddish color.

The poetess has mentioned thunder twice. For example, in the last line of the first stanza, the cloud is personified to laugh and pass in thunder. This makes the reader to imagine of ‘walking’ and the voices of laughing or the strange voices of a thunder. These present the reality of the water cycle system that involves similar thunders and lightening as described. The line; “And their great pines groan aghast” (line 2, stanza 2), suggests the effects of the thunder on the snow, and mountain below the clouds.  Aghast is a suggestion of shock and horror which may imply the effects of thunder striking. This line makes the reader imagine of the intensity and the force of the thunder, thus, appeals to the sense of hearing. Thunder has been mentioned again in the seventh line of second stanza for more emphasis. Line 9 of stanza one says, “I wield the flail of the lashing hail,” thus, suggesting that the clouds were moving in a violent and in a convulsive way. Elsewhere in stanza two, the poem says “Over the rills, and the crags, and the hills” (line 130) “Over the lakes and the plains “(line 14) The two-line suggest the texture of the size of the cliff (crag) and the size of the streams (rills). This appeals to the sense of sight and a touch of the reader.

Stanza four contains the phrases such as: “Glides glimmering o’er my fleece-like floor” (line three), “tent’s thin roof” (line 5), “and I laugh to see them whirl and flee”, (line 9), “wind-built tent’ (line 11), and “Like strips of the sky” (line 13). These phrases suggest the looks and the texture of the respective subject nouns, to the reader. They make the reader to develop the relative images of the nouns in the correct colors and shape dimensions. They appeal to the readers’ sense of touch and sight. Another example of appeal to senses is when the poem says “his burning plumes outspread”. As the reader thinks of the fire, one can imagine of the odour that comes out of a burning arrangement of feathers, thus appealing to smell.  The appeal to senses integrates the reader with the real experiences of the nature of water cycle.

Further, in the last line of the stanza 3, the poem appeals to emotions of the reader when he uses the simile saying “As still as a brooding dove” thus, suggesting the deep thought about a sad, angry, or worried situation. Other uses of simile to appeal to the understanding of the reader and make the poem more vivid includes the use of “Like a swarm of golden bees” (stanza 4, line 10), “my fleece-like floor” (stanza 4, line 3), “Like strips of the sky fallen…” (stanza 4, line 13), “with a bridge-like shape,”, (stanza 5, line 5), and “I hang like a roof,” (stanza5, line 7) among several others (Shelley, Persy Bysshe, 34). Shelley even integrates the use of simile in a rhythmic flow to make an interesting flow in the poem and thus create an appeal to heartbeat voice of the reader. For instance, in the second last line of the poem, she says “Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb” thus suggesting a course of the real actions to the reader.

More to the similes and personification discussed above, the poem has a range of metaphor. Remember a figure of speech is the manipulation or repetitive use of phrases or words in a distinctive way, with the aim to create a certain desired results in a writing.  The several uses of metaphors include” Build up the blue dome of air,” “million-colored bow,” “he moist Earth was laughing below,” “dances about the sun,” “wield the flail of the lashing hail,” “And laugh as I pass in thunder” (Shelley, Persy Bysshe, 34). Actually, most of the personification of the cloud can be taken to be a metaphor.

Anaphora has also been used in the poem. The pronoun I have been used at the beginning of several lines and stanza to create a uniform rhyme and a beat of flow. The word ‘over” is used at the beginning of two consecutive lines in the second stanza. The phrases: “flail of the lashing hail,” “fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,” “Over the rills… and the hills,” “l the while bask in Heaven’s blue smile,” “back of my sailing rack,” “on the jag of a mountain crag”, and “the crimson pall of eve may fall” among several other contains a systematic use of Assonance (Shelley, Persy Bysshe, 34). The assonance makes the poem to be interesting, have a flow and an internal rhythmic meaning. Assonance helps the poem achieve emphasis and cohesion in the word stretch.


Indeed, the appeal to the senses of the reader by the poem is inexhaustible. Shelley has used imagery broadly to create a vivid image of the features and processes in the poem. She gives the moon immortal characteristics that give nature powers of a human. She uses personification in the poem and ensures that the poem appeals to the senses of the reader through imagery and figurative language.  Some of the personifications includes “I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,” (stanza 1, line 1), “I bear light shade for the leaves when laid” (stanza 1, line 3) “I sift the snow on the mountains below, “(stanza 2, line 1), ““I am the daughter of Earth and Water” (stanza 6, line 1), “I am the daughter of Earth and Water” (stanza 7, line 1) (Shelley, Persy Bysshe, 34). There are many other personifications that transform the understanding of the reader on actions to assume a human environment. The poem is multiform since it changes its phases from a stanza to another.  Shelley uses a vivid description of the natural phenomena in a personified language that creates imagery to the reader and appeals to the senses of the reader in an interesting manner. The unique style in this poem communicates the theme of the poem in a clear and interesting manner such that the reader is able to relate thing from the beginning to the end.

Work cited

Liu, Xiaochun. “The Master of All Things: The Human Soul in Shelley’s Poems.” Cross-Cultural

Communication 11.4 (2015): 54.

Shelley, Percy Bysshe. Shelley’s Poetry and Prose. Digireads. com Publishing, 2015.

Shelley, Percy Bysshe. The Complete Poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley:(A Modern Library E-

Book). modern library, 2013.

Shelley, Persy Bysshe. The Complete Poetrical Works. Media Galaxy, 2015.

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