Ode to the West Wind

Ode to the West Wind Summary and Anaylsis

Ode to the West Wind by P. B. Shelley is one of the most anthologized poems in English Literature. Shelley composed this poem in Cascine Woods, outside of Florence (Italy) in the autumn of the year 1819. Ode to the West Wind was first published in 1820. It is a five-stanza poem, each stanza of this poem is made of fourteen lines.

Poem Name Ode to the West Wind
Poet P. B. Shelley
Published 1820
Poetic StructureTerza rima ( adds , bcb )
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley, through his poem Ode to the West Wind, mainly focuses on or deals with: (a) essential destruction of death, as well as (b) possibilities of rebirth
  • The speaker of the poem regards the west wind as a force of (a) death, as well as (b) decay. He welcomes the aforementioned two things as it indicates that rejuvenation, as well as rebirth, are no more away, they will come soon
  • He, in the last (two) sections of the ode, suggests that he desires to help promote it (rebirth) through his own poetry. 
  • As far as the rejuvenation is concerned; the speaker hopes it to see a political as well as poetical – rebirth of society as well as its ways of writing

Ode to the West Wind Summary In Short

The speaker of the poem, in its early lines, directly addresses the wind. He provides a description of it creating deadly or fatal storms. It not only drives or carries away the summer but also brings cold as well as the darkness of winter. According to the speaker, it would be similar to being a dead leaf lifted as well as blown around by the wind. He implores or urges it (wind) to:

                    "as a wave, a leaf, a cloud"

Moreover, he observes it as an essential evil, one that eventually indicates or symbolizes that:

  • Spring is on the way

Ode to the West Wind Themes 

Percy Bysshe Shelley introduces the themes of (a) Death, (b) Rebirth, as well as (c) Poetry in his Ode to the West Wind. The speaker of the poem, from its very beginning, thinks of the west wind as something: (a) powerful, as well as (b) destructive that not only carries away the summer but brings winter as well. a season that is generally associated with death as well as sadness/dejection.

Though the speaker does not regard it as a peaceful wind yet he celebrates it as well. Because:

  • It is essential for the wheel of life to move/circle of life to progress
  • There is no rebirth without death

And, this wind plays a significant role in its preservation.

Whereas, Poetry is not much obvious theme in P. B. Shelley’s well-known poem Ode to the West Wind. It appears the speaker of the poem alludes to a process of creation in the text, one involving him personally. This is the thing that might be (considering or regarding the format) the creation of poetry. 

I

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,
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: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The winged 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
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:

Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh hear!

II

Thou on whose stream, mid the steep sky's commotion,
Loose clouds like earth's decaying leaves are shed,
Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean,

Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread
On the blue surface of thine aëry surge,
Like the bright hair uplifted from the head

Of some fierce Maenad, even from the dim verge
Of the horizon to the zenith's height,
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,
Vaulted with all thy congregated might

Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere
Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: oh hear!

III
Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams
The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,
Lull'd by the coil of his crystalline streams,

Beside a pumice isle in Baiae's bay,
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
Quivering within the wave's intenser day,

All overgrown with azure moss and flowers
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

Thy voice, and suddenly grow gray with fear,
And tremble and despoil themselves: oh hear!

IV

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

The impulse of thy strength, only less free
Than thou, O uncontrollable! If 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
Scarce seem'd a vision; I would ne'er have striven

As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
Oh, 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
One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud.

V

Make me thy lyre, even 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,
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,

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?

Ode to the West Wind Structure and Form

P. B. Shelley composed his Ode to the West Wind in terza rima; it means an interlocking rhyme scheme. As far as the first stanza is concerned; this romantic poet wrote it in the aba pattern. Whereas he uses the same ‘b’ rhyme sound as well as adds a ‘c’ in the second stanza; that is why it looks like bcb.

And, there is a repetition of this pattern throughout the whole poem, just the last two lines (of each stanza) rhyme as a couplet. In spite of the aforementioned rhyme patterns, one can easily trace half-rhyme as well. Such as “everywhere” as well as “hear” in lines 13 (thirteen) and 14 (fourteen).

Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote most of the lines of Ode to the West Wind in iambic pentameter. In other words, the majority of the lines have 5 sets of 2 beats – the one (first) is unstressed whereas another one (second) is unstressed. As far as this pattern is concerned; it does change in some lines of the poem more than others. It especially can be seen in the first stanza; here all lines are irregular.

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