[lit-ideas] The Cloud, by Percy Bysshe Shelley

  • From: "Andy Amago" <aamago@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "lit-ideas" <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 28 Jun 2006 22:39:13 -0400

All these years later this poem, probably considered not a great work, still 
bothers me.  The religious imagery (eve, the dove, the general ferociousness of 
this Thunder-fettering, lightning carrying (is Zeus a stretch?) entity) has a 
decidedly non-religious cast to it, and it correlates with death.  I note the 
imagery moves from light and airy to foreboding and echoing of death and 
uncertain rebirth; also the bisexuality of the speaker.  Someone once said to 
me that he was struck by the father imagery in this poem.  I can't say I see 
father imagery as such, just capricious, despotic characteristics that pass for 
manliness, and by extension father, in most places.  I have to say I like this 
poem.  I would appreciate any thoughts.
I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers 
From the seas and the streams; 
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid 
In their noonday dreams. 
From my wings are shaken the dews that waken 
The sweet buds every one, 
When rocked to rest on their Mother's breast, 
As she dances about the sun. 
I wield the flail of the lashing hail, 
And whiten the green plains under; 
And then again I dissolve it in rain, 
And laugh as I pass in thunder.  

I sift the snow on the mountains below, 
And their great pines groan aghast; 
And all the night 'tis my pillow white, 
While I sleep in the arms of the Blast. 
Sublime on the towers of my skiey bowers 
Lightning my pilot sits; 
In a cavern under is fettered the Thunder, 
It struggles and howls at fits. 
Over earth and ocean with gentle motion 
This pilot is guiding me, 
Lured by the love of the Genii that move 
In the depths of the purple sea; 
Over the rills and the crags and the hills, 
Over the lakes and the plains, 
Wherever he dreams under mountain or stream 
The Spirit he loves remains; 
And I all the while bask in heaven's blue smile, 
Whilst he is dissolving in rains. 
The sanguine Sunrise with his meteor eyes, 
And his burning plumes outspread, 
Leaps on the back of my sailing rack, 
When the morning star shines dead: 
As on the jag of a mountain crag 
Which an earthquake rocks and swings 
An eagle alit one moment may sit 
In the light of its golden wings. 
And, when Sunset may breathe, from the lit sea beneath, 
Its ardours of rest and of love, 
And the crimson pall of eve may fall 
From the depth of heaven above, 
With wings folded I rest on mine airy nest, 
As still as a brooding dove. 
That orbed maiden with white fire laden 
Whom mortals call the Moon 
Glides glimmering o'er my fleece-like floor 
By the midnight breezes strewn; 
And whenever the beat of her unseen feet, 
Which only the angels hear, 
May have broken the woof of my tent's thin roof, 
The stars peep behind her and peer. 
And I laugh to see them whirl and flee 
Like a swarm of golden bees, 
When I widen the rent in my wind-built tent, -- 
Till the calm rivers, lakes, and seas, 
Like strips of the sky fallen through me on high, 
Are each paved with the moon and these. 
I bind the Sun's throne with a burning zone, 
And the Moon's with a girdle of pearl; 
The Volcanoes are dim, and the Stars reel and swim, 
When the Whirlwinds my banner unfurl. 
From cape to cape, with a bridge-like shape 
Over a torrent sea, 
Sunbeam-proof, I hang like a roof; 
The mountains its columns be. 
The triumphal arch through which I march, 
With hurricane, fire, and snow, 
When the powers of the air are chained to my chair, 
Is the millioned-coloured bow; 
The Sphere-fire above its soft colours wove, 
While the moist Earth was laughing below. 
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. 
For after the rain, when with never a stain 
The pavilion of heaven is bare, 
And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams 
Build up the blue dome of air, 
I silently laugh at my own cenotaph, -- 
And out of the caverns of rain, 
Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb, 
I arise, and unbuild it again. 


Other related posts:

  • » [lit-ideas] The Cloud, by Percy Bysshe Shelley