What poetic devices are used in the poem "The Cloud" by Percy Shelley?

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There are many poetic devices in this poem which add to its effect. In the opening line, we see an example of internal rhyme, where two words within the same line—here "showers" and "flowers"—rhyme with each other. We see this technique repeated in later lines, such as "the flail of...

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There are many poetic devices in this poem which add to its effect. In the opening line, we see an example of internal rhyme, where two words within the same line—here "showers" and "flowers"—rhyme with each other. We see this technique repeated in later lines, such as "the flail of the lashing hail." On all occasions, this feature draws attention to the line and helps create a mental picture. Other sound devices in the poem include alliteration ("seas and the streams", "wield . . . whiten") and assonance ("laugh as I pass").

The speaker in this poem is the titular cloud; the personification of the cloud relates to the Romantic idea of pathetic fallacy, where the behavior of nature imitates or reflects the feelings of those who exist in nature. There are other examples of personification in the poem, such as when the "great pines groan aghast" as the wind sifts snow onto the mountains. An extended personification such as the one in this poem is a form of metaphor: the wind does not really have "wings," nor are the "sweet buds" "rocked to rest on their mother's breast." In the context of the poem, however, the whole of nature is imagined as if it had human attributes.

Repetition and anaphora are also used in this poem to emphasize the sheer reach of the cloud—"Over earth and ocean," "over the rills, and the crags," "over the lakes and the plains," the Cloud is moved by his "pilot," another metaphor which refers to God. The "pilot," so named because he has plotted the course for the cloud to follow, helps the cloud to move "wherever he dream," and naturally, because the pilot is God, the extent of those dreams has no end.

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Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem "The Cloud" is a cloud personified. In other words, the poem is from the point of view of a cloud. The thunder is the cloud's "laughter," and through imagery, the reader can see, not only the clouds themselves, but also the "thirsty flowers," the streams, the seas. Personification is used again in the line,

"I bear light shade for the leaves when laid

In their noonday dreams." (Shelley ll. 3-4)

The leaves are personified here as beings who dream. Throughout the poem, nature continues to be personified. "Great pines groan aghast" is another example as is "The sanguine Sunrise, with its meteor eyes." Here the reader gets the added imagery of the sunrise riding on the back of the cloud--as though flying with lit wings.

Snow is compared metaphorically to the cloud's pillow, and while the moon is a dancing maiden, the stars are a "swarm of golden bees." Shelley uses a simile when he writes,

"Sunbeam proof, I hang like a roof,

The mountains its columns be." (Shelley ll. 65-66)

And another simile toward the end,

"Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,

I arise and unbuild it again." (Shelley ll. 83-84)

This very famous poem also uses rhyme, but the rhyme scheme does not stay consistent throughout the entire poem. 

 

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