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Ode to the West Wind

by Benny
Ode to the West Wind is basically an ode which was written by the famous English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in the year 1819, in Italy. In the year 1820, James and Charles Ollier published this ode from London as the part of the Prometheus Unbound, A Lyrical Drama in Four Acts, along with the collection of the other poems. Some of the critics have interpreted this poem as if the speaker or the poem is mourning his incapability to help those people directly, who are in England due to be in Italy.

All at once, this poem also expresses the optimism that its words would influence and inspire those people who hear or read it. Possibly more than anything else, P.B. Shelly wished his message of revolution and reform spread, and the wind turns into the trope to spread the world of the change through a poet-prophet figure. On the other hand, some critics also think that the poet had written this poem because of the loss of his son. Charles, the son of P.B. Shelly died in the year 1826, after William wrote and published this poem. This consequent pain influenced the poet to write this poem.

This poem also allegorizes the poet's role as a voice of the revolution and change. While composing this poem in the year 1819, Shelly had in his mind the memory of the Peterloo Massacre without any doubt. The other poems which he wrote at the same period like "England in 1819", "The Mask of Anarchy" and "Prometheus Unbound" —used the similar problems of revolution, political change and also the role of the poet.
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Structure of the poem:

The poem Ode to the West Wind comprises of five cantos which were written in the terza rima. Every canto contains a rhyming couplet (EE) and four tercets (ABA, BCB, CDC, DED). The ode is also written in the iambic pentameter.

The poem starts with three cantos which describe the effects of the wind upon the air, earth and ocean. In the last two cantos, the poet directly speaks to the wind, ask for the power, to haul up him like a cloud, leaf or like a wave and to make the poet his companion in the wanderings. Then the poet also asks the wind to take the thoughts he has and spread those all around the world to awake all the youth with these ideas. Lastly, the ode ends with the optimistic note that is if here are the winter days, then the spring would not be very far.

The poem can broadly be divided into two parts: The first three cantos, which are all about the qualities of ‘wind', and the last two cantos represent a relation between the speaker and the ‘Wind'.

The Poem: Ode to the West Wind
Written by: Percy Bysshe Shelley

O WILD West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being¡ª
Thou from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,
Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes!¡ªO thou 5
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed
The wing¨¨d seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow
Her clarion o'er the dreaming earth, and fill 10
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill¡ª
Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere¡ª
Destroyer and Preserver¡ªhear, O hear!

Thou on whose stream, 'mid the steep sky's commotion, 15
Loose clouds like earth's decaying leaves are shed,
Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean,
Angels of rain and lightning! they are spread
On the blue surface of thine airy surge,
Like the bright hair uplifted from the head 20
Of some fierce M?nad, ev'n from the dim verge
Of the horizon to the zenith's height¡ª
The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge
Of the dying year, to which this closing night
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre, 25
Vaulted with all thy congregated might
Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere
Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst:¡ªO hear!

Thou who didst waken from his summer-dreams
The blue Mediterranean, where he lay, 30
Lull'd by the coil of his crystalline streams,
Beside a pumice isle in Bai?'s bay,
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
Quivering within the wave's intenser day,
All overgrown with azure moss, and flowers 35
So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou
For whose path the Atlantic's level powers
Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below
The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear
The sapless foliage of the ocean, know 40
Thy voice, and suddenly grow gray with fear
And tremble and despoil themselves:¡ªO hear!

If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;
If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;
A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share 45
The impulse of thy strength, only less free
Than thou, O uncontrollable!¡ªif even
I were as in my boyhood, and could be
The comrade of thy wanderings over heaven,
As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed 50
Scarce seem'd a vision,¡ªI would ne'er have striven
As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
O lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!
A heavy weight of hours has chain'd and bow'd 55
One too like thee¡ªtameless, and swift, and proud.

Make me thy lyre, ev'n as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies
Will take from both a deep autumnal tone, 60
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! be thou me, impetuous one!
Drive my dead thoughts over the universe,
Like wither'd leaves, to quicken a new birth;
And, by the incantation of this verse, 65
Scatter, as from an unextinguish'd hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawaken'd earth
The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind? 70