Ode to the West Wind Summary & Analysis

P.B. Shelley
P.B. Shelley

Ode to the West Wind” maybe a poem was written by English Romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley. consistent with Shelley, the poem was written within the woods outside Florence, Italy within the autumn of 1819. within the poem, the speaker directly addresses the wester. The speaker treats the wester as a force of death and decay and welcomes this death and decay because it means rejuvenation and rebirth will come soon. within the final two sections of the poem, the speaker suggests that he wants to assist promote this rebirth through his own poetry—and that rejuvenation he hopes to ascertain is both political and poetic: a rebirth of society and its ways of writing.

The Full Text of “ Ode to the West Wind ”

 1O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being, 
2Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead 
3Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing, 
4Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red, 
5Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou, 
6Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed 
7The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low, 
8Each like a corpse within its grave, until 
9Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow 
10Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill 
11(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air) 
12With living hues and odours plain and hill: 
13Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere; 
14Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh hear! 
15Thou on whose stream, mid the steep sky’s commotion, 
16Loose clouds like earth’s decaying leaves are shed, 
17Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean, 
18Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread 
19On the blue surface of thine aëry surge, 
20Like the bright hair uplifted from the head 
21Of some fierce Maenad, even from the dim verge 
22Of the horizon to the zenith’s height, 
23The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge 
24Of the dying year, to which this closing night 
25Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre, 
26Vaulted with all thy congregated might 
27Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere 
28Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: oh hear! 
29Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams 
30The blue Mediterranean, where he lay, 
31Lull’d by the coil of his crystalline streams, 
32Beside a pumice isle in Baiae’s bay, 
33And saw in sleep old palaces and towers 
34Quivering within the wave’s intenser day, 
35All overgrown with azure moss and flowers 
36So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou 
37For whose path the Atlantic’s level powers 
38Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below 
39The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear 
40The sapless foliage of the ocean, know 
41Thy voice, and suddenly grow gray with fear, 
42And tremble and despoil themselves: oh hear! 
43If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear; 
44If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee; 
45A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share 
46The impulse of thy strength, only less free 
47Than thou, O uncontrollable! If even 
48I were as in my boyhood and could be 
49The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven, 
50As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed 
51Scarce seem’d a vision; I would ne’er have striven 
52As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need. 
53Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud! 
54I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed! 
55A heavy weight of hours has chain’d and bow’d 
56One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud. 
57Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is: 
58What if my leaves are falling like its own! 
59The tumult of thy mighty harmonies 
60Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone, 
61Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce, 
62My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one! 
63Drive my dead thoughts over the universe 
64Like wither’d leaves to quicken a new birth! 
65And, by the incantation of this verse, 
66Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth 
67Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind! 
68Be through my lips to unawaken’d earth 
69The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind, 

Ode to the West Wind” Summary

You, the unruly wester, are the essence of the autumnyou’re invisible, but you scatter the fallen leaves: they appear like ghosts deed from a witch or wizard. The leaves are yellow and black, white and wild red. they appear like crowds of sick people. You carry the seeds, as if you’re their chariot, right down to the world where they’ll sleep all winter. They lie there, cold and humble, like dead bodies in their graves, until your blue sister, the Spring wind, blows her trumpet and wakes up the world. Then she brings out the buds. they’re like flocks of sheep; they feed the outdoors and she or he fills the meadows and therefore the hills with sweet smells and delightful colors. Unruly wester, moving everywhere: you’re both an exterminator and a savior. Please hear me!

In the high and whirling reaches of the sky, you send the clouds twirling: they appear like dead leaves, shaken loose from the branches of the heavens and therefore the sea. they’re like angels, filled with rain and lightning. Or they’re scattered across the bluejust like the blond hair of a wildly dancing girl who may be a follower of Dionysus. The clouds stretch from the horizon to the highest of the sky just like the hair of the approaching storm. West wind, you sad song of the top of the year. The night is going to be just like the dome of a huge tomb, the clouds you gathered like archways running across it. And from the solid top of that tomb, dark rain, lightning, and hail will subsidehear me! You woke the Mediterranean from its summer dreams. That blue sea, which lay wrapped in its crystal-clear currents, was snoozing near an island made from igneous rock within the Bay of Baiae, near Naples. within the waters of the bay, you saw the ruins of old palaces and towers, now submerged within the water’s thicker sort of daylight. These ruins were overgrown with sea plants that seemed like blue moss and flowers. they’re so beautiful that I faint once I consider them. You—whose path turns the graceful surface of the Atlantic into tall waves, while deep below the surface sea-flowers and forests of seaweed, which have leaves with no sap, hear your voice and switch gray from fear, trembling, losing their flowers and leaves—listen to me

If only I used to be a dead leaf, you would possibly carry me. you would possibly let me fly with you if i used to be a cloud. Or if I used to be a wave that you simply drive forward, I might share your strength—though I’d be less free than you, since nobody can control you. If only I might be the way I used to be once I was a toddleronce I was your friend, wandering with you across the sky—then it didn’t seem crazy to imagine that I might be as fast as you are—then I wouldn’t have called bent you, prayed to you, in desperation. Please lift me up sort of a wave, a leaf, or a cloud! I’m falling into life’s sharp thorns and bleeding! Time has put me in shackles and diminished my pride, though I used to be once as proud, fast, and unruly as you.

Make me into your instrumenteven as the forest is once you blow through it. So what if my leaves are falling just like the forest’s leaves. The ruckus of your powerful music will bring a deep, autumn music out of both me and therefore the forest. it’ll be beautiful albeit it’s sad. Unruly soul, you ought to become my soul. you ought to become me, you unpredictable creature. Scatter my dead thoughts across the universe like fallen leaves to inspire something new and exciting. Let this poem be a prayer that scatters ashes and sparks—as though from a fireplace that somebody forgot to place out—throughout humanity. Speak through me, and therein way, turn my words into a prediction of the longer term. O wind, if winter is on its way, isn’t Spring getting to follow it soon?

“Ode to the West Wind” Themes

Ode to the West Wind
                                 P.B. Shelley

Throughout “Ode to the west Wind,” the speaker describes the wester as a strong and destructive force: it drives away the summer and brings instead winter storms, chaos, and even death. Yet the speaker celebrates the wester and welcomes the destruction that it causes because it results in renewal and rebirth.

The wester isn’t peaceful or pleasant. It is, the speaker notes, “the breath of Autumn’s being.” Autumn may be a transitional season when summer’s abundance begins to fade. So too, everywhere the speaker looks the wester drives away peace and abundance. The wester strips the leaves from the trees whips up the sky and causes huge storms on the ocean. And, within the first section of the poem, the speaker compares the dead leaves the wester blows to “ghosts” and “pestilence-stricken multitudes.” The wester turns the autumn colors into something scary, related to sickness and death.

Similarly, the clouds within the poem’s second section appear as if the “bright hair uplifted from the top / of some fierce Mænad.” In Greek mythology, the Mænads were the feminine followers of Dionysus (the god of Wine). They were famous for his or her wild parties and their dancing, and are often portrayed with their hair askew. The wester thus makes the clouds wild and drunk. It creates chaos. Unlike its “sister of the Spring”—which spreads sweet smells and delightful flowers—the speaker associates the wester with chaos and death.

Yet despite the destructive power of the wester, the speaker celebrates it—because such destruction is important for rebirth. because the speaker notes at the top of the poem’s first section, the wester is both a “destroyer” and “preserver.” These are the normal names of two Hindu gods, Shiva and Vishnu. Shiva’s role is to preserve the world; Vishnu is meant to destroy it. The wester combines these two opposite figures. because the speaker announces within the final lines—”O Wind, / If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”—the wester is in a position to mix these opposites because death is required for all times, and winter for Spring. so as to possess the gorgeous renewal and rebirth that Spring promises, one needs the powerful, destructive force of the wester.

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