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Guide Ode to the West Wind

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To be exact, when he published the poem with his unperformable play Prometheus Unbound in , he claimed in a footnote to have written "Ode to the West Wind" while sitting in the woods near the Arno River on a windy day in October.

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Lucky man, we say, but although he loved Italy, he was feeling depressed about being detached from the political and social scene back in his native England. Many critics have suggested that this poem relates to that sense of powerlessness. As a political, religious, and literary radical, Shelley was heavily invested in his own ability to influence society. Some poets need solitude and privacy and a retreat in the woods to do their best work, but Shelley needed stimulating arguments and social action.


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Its brevity, smooth tone, and straightforward use of natural imagery present his abstract ideas about philosophy and poetry in a compact way. Shmoop cannot tell a lie: caring about Percy Bysshe Shelley can be hard. What are we talking about? If you wrote, "I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed! His passions are right on the surface. He sees no point in beating around the bush.

The west wind also sweeps along storm clouds. It is the death song of the year. With the night that closes the year will come rain, lightning, and hail; there will be storms in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.

Ode to the West Wind

The poet pleads with the west wind to endow him with some of its power, for he feels depressed and helpless. If he were possessed of some of the power of the west wind, he would be inspired to write poetry which the world would read and by which it would be spiritually renewed, just as the renewal which is spring succeeds the dormancy of winter.

Shelley appended a note to the "Ode to the West Wind" when it appeared in the Prometheus Unbound volume in "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 by that magnificent thunder and lightning peculiar to the Cisalpine regions.

Analysis of Shelley’s "Ode to the West Wind"

The note is interesting in that it shows that the poem came out of a specific experience. The imagery of the poem suggests a natural phenomenon that is observed while it is taking place. The fact that it was written near Florence, Dante's city, may explain why Shelley used terza nina , the stanza of Dante's Divine Comedy , but rare in English poetry, in the ode.

Terza nina is a series of triplets with interlocking rhymes, aba, bcb, cdc, etc. Shelley modified the pattern by ending each of the five sections of the poem with a climactic couplet.

“Ode to the West Wind”

In keeping with his terza nina stanza, he concentrates on the effects of the west wind on three classes of objects: leaves, clouds, and water. The combination of terza nina and the threefold effect of the west wind gives the poem a pleasing structural symmetry. In the ode, Shelley, as in "To a Skylark" and "The Cloud," uses the poetic technique of myth, with which he had been working on a large scale in Prometheus Unbound in The west wind is a spirit, as is the skylark. It possesses great powers and for this very reason Shelley can pray to it for what he feels he is deeply in need of.

He falls "upon the thorns of life," he bleeds; a "heavy weight of hours has chained and bowed" him. It was Shelley's belief that poetry, by appealing to the imagination, could stir the reader to action in a given direction.


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With Shelley, this direction was liberty and democracy. In Prometheus Unbound , he sketched the wonderful world of freedom that he dreamed of; readers, fascinated by Shelley's glowing descriptions, would be stimulated to want such a world too.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Unfortunately, readers seemed uninterested in his poetry, and democracy was not making progress in the Europe of , when he wrote the poem. Shelley was profoundly discouraged, chained and bowed by a "heavy weight of hours. Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind" is a good example of Shelley's poetic mind at work, and when it is at work, it is heaping up similes and metaphors.