What is the tone of the poem "The Armadillo" by Elizabeth Bishop?

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While I support the excellent tone analysis by sciftw, I believe there is even more going on here with regard to Elizabeth Bishop's tone.  Bishop is noted as a poet of restraint, and I do feel that restraint is especially important here.  The regularity of the rhymed quatrains works well with that restraint.  As sciftw tells us, the opening descriptive stanzas express awe for the beauty of the fire balloons against the night sky, but that awe is restrained.  It's as if we are standing back looking at this beauty and taking it in. 

Similarly, though the phrase "suddenly turning dangerous" signifies a tone shift, we (with the speaker) are still watching at arm's length.  The beauty we have observed is now overtaken by the speaker/observer's awareness that this beauty comes at a cost: the habitat of the owls is destroyed, the frightened armadillo hastens away with his head down, and the short-eared rabbit jumps and stares with "fixed, ignited eyes."  It is noteworthy here that even the danger to the animals is described in terms that underscore their beauty: "their whirling black-and-white / stained bright pink underneath" (the owls in flight), "a glistening armadillo.../ rose-flecked," and "So soft!--a handful of intangible ash" (the rabbit).  Only in restraint can beauty be contemplated. 

Yet the final stanza provides an even more pointed tone shift, signified by Bishop's italics.  This quatrain alone contains two exclamation points and it is suffused with diction indicating panic and fear: "falling fire and piercing cry," "mailed fist," and "clenched."  It is also significant that the mailed fist is "weak" and "ignorant."  Though there is anger here, it is a resigned anger amidst the realization of one's inability to stop the inevitable destruction.  In this final stanza, we become the armadillo, whose armor is insufficient to withstand the destructive powers of war and bombing.  It is perhaps a consequence of observing--witnessing the destructive results of the beautiful fire balloons but failing to take action to stop their inevitable effects.

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There are two different and distinct tones used in "The Armadillo."  

The tone of the first half of the poem could be described as admiring and awe-filled. The narrator speaks with great appreciation and wonder in regards to the fire balloons that he or she is looking at. They rise high into the night sky and become one with the stars and planets. It is a great image.  

Once up against the sky it's hard
to tell them from the stars—
planets, that is—the tinted ones:
Venus going down, or Mars,

or the pale green one.

But the tone of the poem drastically shifts with the last line of the fifth stanza.  

suddenly turning dangerous.

From that point forward, the tone is not admiring. The tone has become fearful, foreboding, and grave.  

The balloons are no longer a thing of beauty. Instead they are destructive devices that destroy habitats and the animals that live there.  

The flame ran down. We saw the pair

of owls who nest there flying up

and up, their whirling black-and-white
stained bright pink underneath, until
they shrieked up out of sight.
I would even support the idea that the tone of the final stanza is angry. The picture of a fist being clenched against the sky is a gesture of anger.  
O falling fire and piercing cry
and panic, and a weak mailed fist
clenched ignorant against the sky!
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