In six stanzas of between twelve and eighteen lines each, the first-person narrator of “The Cloud,” who is the cloud itself, describes its various forms and functions throughout its life cycle. The first stanza captures the range of the cloud’s moods. Gentle, it brings rain to nourish the earth’s flowers and shade for the leaves of trees. The cloud can also be ferocious, however, bringing hail that whitens the ground, followed by thunderstorms.
Peaceful again in stanza 2, the cloud describes how it shrouds the snow on mountain peaks and sleeps during the storm. Then the cloud explains how it is controlled by atmospheric electricity (a belief that was common in Shelley’s time but has since been disproved). The poet pictures the cloud as possessing a positive electrical charge that interacts with earth’s negative charge to produce rain, either a fierce thunderstorm or more gentle showers. The attraction between the two kinds of electricity is depicted as love.
Stanza 3 describes a sunrise and a sunset from the cloud’s perspective. At daybreak, just as Venus (the “morning star”) becomes invisible, the sun’s rays leap onto the mass of clouds driven by the wind; at sunset the cloud rests, with “wings folded,” like a “brooding dove.” In stanza 4 the moon, “that orbed maiden,” rises at dusk and “Glides glimmering” over the cloud’s “fleece-like floor.” The type of cloud suggested here is altocumulus, a “thin...
(The entire section is 496 words.)