Ode to the West Wind by P.B Shelley is not only considered the greatest poems in English Literature but also represents the intelligence of Shelley.
Ode to the West Wind is a great work of art because of its magnificent theme, poetic beauty and lyrical quality. In the poem, there is a blend of natural and spiritual forces.
Ode to the West Wind has five sections. Each section depicts the mood of the poet and also the autumn scene with the West Wind blowing through it. Each section of the poem has 14 lines with linked rhymes and ending couplet.
The wind has dual nature, it is a destroyer and a preserver. It opens with an invocation. the poet looks upon the West Wind as the breath of Autumn. this Autumn personified by Shelley is not the same as Keats’ Autumn.
The west wind is a wild spirit and it is invisible like an enchanter. Due to the wind, the leaves are dead but they are like ghosts as the wind make them flee here and there. It seems these leaves have magical powers like ghosts. The wind is a Destroyer but it destroys for good, it only destroys useless things. The wind only destroys dry and dead leaves but not the green leaves that are a symbol of life. It destroys leaves that are in yellow, pale or black colour.
The first five lines of Ode to the West Wind describes the wind as a Destroyer and the next five lines describe the wind as a Preserver. The wind carries away all the dead leaves and put them on the ground. On the ground, these leaves will become fertile soil for new plants in spring. The wind also carries the light seeds and scatter them everywhere, so in the spring these seeds will start a new life.
In stanza 2, the poet describes the West Wind in its terrible aspects. There is a loud sound int he sky and earth as storms breaks out.
The poet describes the energy of the storm in three images. First is the image of the sky filled with stormy clouds ad the Ocean with high waves. The second image describes a “Maenad, the female votary of Bacchus, the Greek God of wine”.
The third image is connected with death and tomb. The old year will be buried under the weight of heavy rain. “The funeral song will be the moan of the storm wind and the crashing sound of thunder”.
The poet starts the 3rd stanza of The Ode to the West Wind with a complete contrasting effect of West Wind on the sea. The West Wind blows over the Mediterranean sea and disturbs its calm. It also blows over the Atlantic and raises huge waves. In the summer, the Mediterranean sea remained peaceful. the ruins of the old towers and palaces which are now under the bottom of the sea could be seen trembling under these waves.
The Wind also disturbs the smooth waves of Atlantic and the flowers and trees of the sea recognize its voice and grow white with fear.
The poet leaves a strong personal note in this stanza. Bons of humans makes him helpless and weak. However just like the West Wind, he desires to accomplish the great task to regenerate the humanity throguh destruction. He will prefer to be weak or fragile like a leaf than to be a weak human being in a corrupt society.
He prays to West Wind to lift him out of these bondage. The last lines close on frustration . If the poem had ended on this note, it would not be considered the greatest poem. The poet balances himself and stand out from dejection.
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?Ode to The West Wind by P.B. Shelley
In the last stanza, Shelley expresses hope. His spirit is like the spirit of West Wind. The poet links himself to the forest and to a lyre. Just like the forest, he responds to the movement of the wind. The West wind inspires the poet to write poetry. Shelley poetry leaves an inspiring message to humanity. The poetry that starts with sadness ends on joy and hope.
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