A Short Analysis of Ode to The West Wind Written by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

Updated June 17, 2022

Ode to The West Wind is a masterpiece of Percy Bysshe Shelley (P.B. Shelly) wherein, power of the west wind brings in all the good changes. In fact, the poet wishes changes in the society exemplifying a hope for a better future. The poet implores the wind to make him its comrade and lift him as wave & clouds. He prays wind to make him as powerful as wind itself so that he can impact mankind with his words.

The poem ‘Ode to The West Wind’ is one of the most famous poets of the Romantic Age. In his short literary career of little more than 10 years, Shelley produced poetry of the highest quality in all the principal verse forms. “Ode to the West Wind” earned P.B. Shelly a true fame. The poem was composed in a woods near Florence on a day when the west wind was blowing strongly, heralding a storm at the beginning of the autumn rains.

Analysis of “Ode to the West Wind”

“Ode to the West Wind” begins with a wonderful innovation to the west wind. The first section presents the awesome might of the West Wind which has been personified. He drives away the withered leaves like an enchanter who purges out ghosts. The “yellow”, “Black”, and “Pale” leaves denote disease, calamity and death.

The comparison of dead leaves to the people heightens the imagery of death. The imagery of death is reinforced when the poet compares the ‘winged seeds’ to the ‘corpse within its grave’. In this section, the poet makes a skillful use of alliteration, simile and personification. The West Wind is seen destroying the dead and facilitating new birth:

Wild spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and preserves, hear, on hear!

The poet’s comparison of the West Wind to a shepherd which drives the buds to feed in the air is also striking.

The second section uses the imagery of the leaves. The P.B. Shelley says that the loose clouds like withered leaves fall from the unseen forests of the West Wind. He also says that these ‘loose clouds’ are the messengers of ‘rain and lightning’. Suddenly the poet uses the human imagery. He says that the clouds becomes a mournful tune. The night becomes the tomb of an extensive sepulcher, canopied by the unifying power of the west wind. The imagery in this section is very powerful and appears real.

The third section presents the effects of the West Wind on the sea i.e. on the surface of the water. We find the Mediterranean asleep dreaming of old palaces and towers which are only reflections. The West Wind drives away these unreal thoughts. The Atlantic also cleaves itself to give way to the powerful West Wind. The underwater vegetation feels the arrival of the West and sheds the leaves.

In the fourth section, the poet wants to form a relation between himself and the West Wind like the leaves, the cloud and the wave. He craves to share the power of the West Wind:

Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!

In the last two sections of the poem, the poet prays that just as the West Wind is the changing agent of nature, so may he, by his poetry, be an instrument of change in the world. The poet wants that the prophetic note of the West wind should spread the message of reform and revolt throughout the world through his mouth as it scatters ‘ashes and sparks’ from ‘an unextinguished hearth’. He is also hopeful of better days ahead. He says:

The trumpet of a prophecy! O wind,
If winter comes, can spring be far behind?

Ode To West Wind: In Conclusion

“ode to the West Wind” is noteworthy for a series of images presented in quick succession. The poem has been presented in a sonnet sequence which is called “Terza Rima” ending in a couplet instead of a tercet. Like a sonnet, the poem is in iambic pentameter. Moreover, it follows an interlocking rhyme scheme, or chain rhyme- aba, bcb, cdc, ded, ee.

The poet presents highly evocative description of the West Wind, enacting its drama on the three levels of nature- the land, the sky and the sea. After the description of nature, the poet presents himself as a person who has fallen upon the thorns of life. Here we find a touch of self-pity.

However, the optimistic note on which the poem ends, makes us forget the self-pity of the poet and we expect that time can also change for the better. The way he is describing the nature in the poem “Ode to the West Wind” made him true figure of the Romantic Age. And Percy Bysshe Shelley is best known for this poem.

Beyond Ode to West Wind Analysis Under Literature

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