Percy Bysshe Shelley was born in 1792, the eldest of seven children. Shelley was very hostile to organized religion, declaring religion must perish. Moroever, Shelley read widely, including the Bible, and thus knew his opponents. "The Cloud," written in 1820 is a short poem written in abcb (as opposed to the heroic couplets of previous generations) rhyme scheme but this feature is the least of its norm breaking properties. In "The Cloud," Shelley expresses the Romantic theme of man finding deity in nature.
In the first stanza, Shelley reveals the cloud's deity by expressing the multiple functions of the cloud. In the same way the Christian God has multiple functions like Creator, Redeemer, and Comforter, the cloud has many functions. First, Shelley portrays the cloud as a gardener. He brings water to the thirsty flowers. This is a picture of a nurturer. Second, Shelley personifies the leaves as Mother Nature's children. The cloud is a shade bearer for the leaves who take a noonday nap. In addition, Shelley personifies the buds as Mother Nature's children. Each night Mother Nature rocks the buds to rest at her breast, a symbol of nurture. Moreover, Shelley gives Mother Nature human characteristics by saying she dances around the moon. This is simply Shelley's symbolism for the rotation of the Earth. In addition, the wind showers forth hail as a sign of judgement. Then he shows his power over the hail by dissolving it in rain. Finally, Shelley gives the cloud the ability to laugh like a human being. The cloud's laughing is his thunder. This is the laughing of a boastful arrogant deity as he shows his power. Shelley believes nature to be a more be...
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...ase after an immortal Spirit. This is a highly figurative expression of science with a double meaning. Furthermore, Shelley continues to describe the cloud in terms of bird imagery. Like a bird, the cloud soars on the wind. In addition the cloud boastfully exclaims his deity. He does this by inferring he is not mortal. In this same stanza Shelley gives an intense reflection on the activity of the cloud during the night. Then Shelley displays a glowing representation of nature by alluding to biblical images. The devout Anglican would easily pick up on this reflection and relate the likeness in his head. Finally, the last stanza displays the life cycle of a cloud. Shelley does this by describing the precipitation cycle in poetic language.
MacEachen, Dougald. Cliffs Notes on Keats and Shelley. Lincoln, Nebraska: Cliffs Notes Incorporated, 1996.
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