Shelley Ode To The West Wind Essay

A first-person persona addresses the west wind in five stanzas. It is strong and fearsome. In the first stanza, the wind blows the leaves of autumn. In the second stanza, the wind blows the clouds in the sky. In the third stanza, the wind blows across an island and the waves of the sea. In the fourth stanza, the persona imagines being the leaf, cloud, or wave, sharing in the wind’s strength. He desires to be lifted up rather than caught low on “the thorns of life,” for he sees himself as like the wind: “tameless, and swift, and proud.” In the final stanza, he asks the wind to play upon him like a lyre; he wants to share the wind’s fierce spirit. In turn, he would have the power to spread his verse throughout the world, reawakening it.


The poet is directing his speech to the wind and all that it has the power to do as it takes charge of the rest of nature and blows across the earth and through the seasons, able both to preserve and to destroy all in its path. The wind takes control over clouds, seas, weather, and more. The poet offers that the wind over the Mediterranean Sea was an inspiration for the poem. Recognizing its power, the wind becomes a metaphor for nature’s awe-inspiring spirit. By the final stanza, the speaker has come to terms with the wind’s power over him, and he requests inspiration and subjectivity. He looks to nature’s power to assist him in his work of poetry and prays that the wind will deliver his words across the land and through time as it does with all other objects in nature.

The form of the poem is consistent in pattern. Each stanza is fourteen lines in length, using the rhyming pattern of aba bcb cdc ded ee. This is called terza rima, the form used by Dante in his Divine Comedy.

Keeping in mind that this is an ode, a choral celebration, the tone of the speaker understandably includes excitement, pleasure, joy, and hope. Shelley draws a parallel between the seasonal cycles of the wind and that of his ever-changing spirit. Here, nature, in the form of the wind, is presented, according to Abrams “as the outer correspondent to an inner change from apathy to spiritual vitality, and from imaginative sterility to a burst of creative power.”

Thematically, then, this poem is about the inspiration Shelley draws from nature. The “breath of autumn being” is Shelley’s atheistic version of the Christian Holy Spirit. Instead of relying on traditional religion, Shelley focuses his praise around the wind’s role in the various cycles in nature—death, regeneration, “preservation,” and “destruction.” The speaker begins by praising the wind, using anthropomorphic techniques (wintry bed, chariots, corpses, and clarions) to personalize the great natural spirit in hopes that it will somehow heed his plea. The speaker is aware of his own mortality and the immortality of his subject. This drives him to beg that he too can be inspired (“make me thy lyre”) and carried (“be through my lips to unawakened earth”) through land and time.

The first two stanzas are mere praise for the wind’s power, covered in simile and allusion to all that which the wind has the power to do: “loosen,” “spread,” “shed,” and “burst.” In the fourth and fifth stanzas, the speaker enters into the poem, seeking (hoping) for equal treatment along with all other objects in nature, at least on the productive side. The poet offers humility in the hope that the wind will assist him in achieving his quest to “drive [his] dead thoughts over the universe.” Ultimately, the poet is thankful for the inspiration he is able to draw from nature’s spirit, and he hopes that it will also be the same spirit that carries his words across the land where he also can be a source of inspiration.

Essay on Analysis of "Ode to the West Wind"

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Each of the poem's five stanzas contains a sonnet with a closing couplet. It is written in iambic pentameter in terza rima formation. The rhyming pattern follows the form aba bcb cdc ded ee. According to Shelley's note, "this poem was conceived and chiefly written in a wood that skirts the Arno, near Florence, and on a day when that tempestuous wind, whose temperature is at once mild and animating, was collecting the vapours which pour down the autumnal rains. They began, as I foresaw, at sunset with a violent tempest of hail and rain, attended that magnificent thunder and lightning peculiar to the Cisalpine regions." It was written in the autumn of 1819 and published the following year. It is clear from the flamboyant language used in…show more content…

The "leaves dead" are the dead leaves of a tree being blown about by the wind, however, they could also be the leaves of a book and a reference to Shelley's fear of his diminishing talent and unread work. Shelley goes on to liken the dead leaves to "ghosts from an enchanter fleeing", clearly building up the sense of death and life after death brought by the west wind. The phrase also emphasises the supernatural power of the west wind.

It is possible that Shelley viewed those killed in the Peterloo massacre as martyrs for the cause and that their death is part of the necessary changes. The description of leaves "Yellow, and black, and pale" is thought to represent the different races of human beings. The United Kingdom was certainly becoming ever more multicultural at this time. That the leaves are also described as "hectic red (fevered), Pestilence stricken multitudes" could refer to the poor conditions of the multicultural working class. The leaves are being buffeted about by the wind to symbolise the hardships that must be endured by the people before change can take place. It is almost certain that the poet wanted the reader to consider the meaning of these lines as there are frequent commas causing pauses, which create emphasis.

There are several images in the first stanza that build up a sense of death, haunting and the

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