Saturday, 31 October 2015

Ode to the West Wind (poem) by P.B. Shelley

Ode to the West Wind                                               P.B.Shelley

P.B. Shelley is the revolutionary Romantic poet. He was born to an aristocratic and conservative family. An uncompromising idealist, he remained a radical throughout his life.  He was expelled from Oxford for having written a pamphlet entitled The Necessity of Atheism.  His major works are Ode to the West Wind, Prometheus Unbound and A Defence of Poetry. Ode to the West Wind is in the form of a prayer to the wild west wind who is portrayed both as destroyer and preserver. The poem is noted for its rich images, metaphors and lyrical quality. The poet wants the help of the west wind to spread his revolutionary message among mankind all over the world, so that a new society based on great ideals such as equality, liberty and fraternity can be created. Shelley is optimistic that” if winter comes, can spring be far behind?” He asks.

2.  In the first stanza of the poem, Shelley describes the work of the Wild West Wind on the earth. The wind has godly qualities. It is invisible, swift, uncontrollable, destroyer and preserver. The West Wind is the life giver of the Autumn season. It means that the season is created when the Wind blows over Europe. Trees are violently shaken and all the dead leaves are collected and taken away by the Wind to “their dark wintry bed”. The wind is compared to a great exorcist who drives away ghosts. He drives the chariot of dead bodies to the cemetery, which is the wintry bed. Again the wind blows creating the spring season. The poet claims that it is the sister of the west wind. Her violent commotion is compared to the “clarion call to wake up the dreaming earth”. Soon all the seeds are sprouted up, covering all the hills and valleys with green vegetation, buds are blossoming into sweet smelling flowers all over the world. The West Wind, thus, acts both as a destroyer and preserver. 
3. In the second stanza of the poem, Shelley describes how the west wind acts both as destroyer and preserver in the sky. The wind blows in the sky like a mighty stream with commotion. Loose clouds in the sky are compared to the dry leaves in the branches of a huge tree, which stands between the sky and ocean. Soon they are converted into dark thick rainy clouds. The cloudy sky is compared to the uplifted hair of  Maenad, who is dancing violently on the birthday of her God Bacchus in Greek Mythology. Again,  Shelley says that the West wind is the dirge of the dying year.  The closing night and the clouds are the congregation of the Wild West Wind. With their help, the wind is making a tomb for the dying year. The action of the west wind in the sky brings heavy rainfall, lightening and thunder, which are essential for life on earth. The Wind, thus, acts both a destroyer and preserver in the sky too

4. In third stanza of the poem, Shelley again praises the glorious work of the Wind in the ocean. It is the Wind that wakes up both the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean from their summer dreams. When the Wind blows over the ocean, violent waves are created and deep chasms are made. At the bottom, the marine woods are so frightened with fear that they destroy themselves. The poet enjoys the beauty of blue Mediterranean from the
 Pumice Island on the Bias Bay. Being a tourist place, Shelley might have visited this Island on several occasions. He says that in her summer sleep the Mediterranean sees beautiful palaces and towers which are so old that they are overgrown with “azure moss” and are quivering in the bright sunlight. The dream is so sweet that if a man tries to imagine it, his sense will faint.
5. In the fourth stanza of the poem, the poet pleads to the west wind to make him a dead leaf or cloud or a wave so that he can fly with the wind sharing its great power. Here the poet identifies himself with the west wind. He praises the greatest quality of the wind. It is uncontrollable and the poet says that he is also impatient, proud and as swift as the wind in destroying the bad elements of the world, such as corruption, superstition, exploitation of the poor by the rich, oppression and laziness. The poet is nostalgic when he says that in his boyhood days he was the companion of the wind and he used to defeat the wind in his skiey speed. But now the poet falls upon the thorns of life. Difficulties and problems of life have chained him up and he is bleeding. The poet is too proud to bow his head to his companion. Yet he makes this request in his urgent need.

6. In the fifth stanza, the poet requests the wind to make him a lyre of the wind as the forest is. He is aware of his old age and weakness. Still he is optimistic that the magical power west wind inspires him to produce sad music, which is the sweetest song in the world. The poet says that his spirit is identical with the spirit of the west wind. The poet is as swift, rebellious and impatient and proud as the west wind. As the west wind destroys all the bad elements in the world, the poet is impatient enough to destroy corruption, superstition, laziness and oppression and create a new generation of mankind who can enjoy liberty, equality and fraternity. The poet wants to create a new society where all men are created equal, where all people enjoy freedom, peace, love and health. He believes that his revolutionary ideas can bring about this social change. But they are still in his mind like sparks and ashes in an oven. He wants the help of the west wind to spread his message all over the world. It is in the form of lyrics so that people enjoy reading it. It is the trumpet of a prophecy. Being an optimist, Shelley hopes that if winter comes, spring cannot be far behind. So it is certain that a new social order will come to earth where all human beings will enjoy fraternity, peace and love.
Annotate the following
1.      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!
2.      And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
…………..the sense faints picturing them!
3.      If I were a dead leaf thou miightest bear;
………….a swift cloud to fly with thee;
4.      Be thou, Spirit fierce,
5.      My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!
6.      The trumpet of a prophecy! O, Wind
…….can Spring be far behind?


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