P.B Shelley's The Cloud: A myth of Nature

 A myth is a story handed down from olden times, especially explanation of natural events or beliefs about the early history of a race. In other words, a myth is a purely fictitious narrative embodying popular ideas on natural phenomena. In relation to poetry and myth, it is definitely be told that a poet must have in his soul a sense of music, myth and imagination or he will never be able to speak rhythmically, universally and pictorially in his poetry. P. B.Shelley stands among those poets who made a perfect fusion of myth and lyrical grace, the most spontaneous, the most lyrical and most mythical. 

  All of Shelley's poems are crowded with image figures, adding beauty and clearness, furnishing thousands of supplementary pictures, yet contributing an element of magical swiftness. Sometimes we find in poetry a suggestion of what everyone has experienced, the great difficulty of conveying an impression of our joys and sorrows. Shelley, struggling to make us feel the beauty of the cloud, abandons direct statement and resorts to simile after simile. He retells a truth and belief, unified as myth to worship his nature- a sublime force of change and rebuild.

The Cloud
The cloud is a nature myth of flawless beauty. Shelly imagines the cloud as a living being and ascribes individuality to her through a set of moving images. She is the daughter of earth and water and the nursling of the sky. She can speak, move and act like human beings. She brings fresh showers for the thirsty flowers. She bears light shed for the leaves and helps the buds to bloom. The spirit of the cloud is playfulness; she moves in the sky playing and jesting with the gaiety of the benevolent giant. Even when the sun has swept her from the sky, she alone laughs: “I silently laugh at my own cenotaph.” The cloud is whimsical and cruel too. She lashes the earth with hailstones and whitens the green field. But this does not last long. Soon she brings torrential rain and the fields become green again. The cloud then disappears from the sky with deep roars of thunder.

Again, the cloud over the mountains blasts through Lightning and thunder.  It glides over the terrain of Earth and Ocean, with gentle motion, of the purple sea; over the rills, and the crags, and the hills, over the lakes and the plains. The cloud does rest as a brooding dove when the earth is shiny and silent. It plays with rainbow, moon or the starry angels in the sky.

Like the cloud, the other objects in the world of nature are also personified in this poem. They also act like human beings. It has been rightly said that the poem is not only a myth of the cloud; the cloud is accompanied by the host of other allied. This impersonation is also vivid in pictorial details. The flowers feel thirsty; the leaves enjoy their noonday dreams; the dews waken the buds; and the winds and sunbeams build up the blue dome of air.

 Thus Shelley’s wonderful myth-making power is in evidence in this poem. The myths created by shelley are highly imaginative, but at the same time they are based on scientific truths. And shelley describes them with the accuracy of a scientific observer. The line “she dances about the Sun” refers to the scientific truth of the rotation of the earth around its parent star, sun. Again the line “I change, but I cannot die”, reveals the fact that the matter is undying. So we can say that Shelley’s The Cloud is a wonderful blending of nature myths and scientific facts. 


  1. My name: Abdel-Malik M. Abdel-Rahman
    Occupation:Professor of Physics
    Institution: University of Khartoum, Sudan
    I am also registered MA student in my university studying blending of Science and Poetry in Arabic literature. Hence I thoroughly enjoyed Shelly's poem and your analysis of it.
    Are there more examples like this in English Literature?
    Thank you for brightening my day.

  2. Thanks Malik for your interesting studies and inspiring words.


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An English Teacher;    M. A.(English) , D. Ed., B. Ed., UGC- NET Qualified

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