It is important to realise that the persona of this poem is actually the cloud of the title, who in the poem talks about its various appearances and what it does during its life. The initial stanza gives a general overview of the cloud's functions. It waters "the thirsting flowers"...
It is important to realise that the persona of this poem is actually the cloud of the title, who in the poem talks about its various appearances and what it does during its life. The initial stanza gives a general overview of the cloud's functions. It waters "the thirsting flowers" as a gentle entity, but at the same time, there is a violence and a power in the cloud as it "wield[s] the flail of the lashing hail" and shows its majesty in the "laugh" of thunder. In the second stanza, the cloud presents itself as being gentle, sleeping during tempests and covering the tops of mountains. The contemporary belief of how clouds are controlled by electricity in the atmosphere is explored in this stanza, with the attraction between the two kinds of electricity that was thought to produce rain being described as love.
The third verse refers to the course of the sun from the vantage point of the cloud as it rises and sets. The beauty of the sun's movements and how they impact the sun are described. The next stanza then moves on to describe the moon, and again how it impacts the cloud, and the joy that the cloud has in seeing the stars and how they "whirl and flee, / Like a swarm of golden bees" as the cloud becomes more fragmented.
The fifth stanza presents the cloud as a high cloud that envelops the sun and moon when they appear behind it. Then, the cloud shifts form once again becoming a rain cloud that contains the "Powers of the air" which are "chained to my chair" as it drops its load of rain on the "laughing" Earth. Lastly, the final stanza concludes the poem by talking about the clouds relationship with the elements and its cycle of life:
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.
Note the intimate relation that the cloud claims with the planet and how its eternal nature and changing form is alluded to. After the rain it is reborn, "Like a child from the womb" to rebuild its own form.