Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Ode to the West Wind By PB Shelley

Lines 1 to 5: The poet calls the West Wind wild and the breath of autumn. The unseen wind carries the dead leaves from the trees and spreads them on the ground. This is compared to (simile) ghosts running away from a magician. The leaves are also compared to (metaphor) a crowd afflicted by plague because they are black, red, yellow and pale.

Lines 6 to 12: The West Wind carries the winged seeds like a chariot to the cold winter ground where they lie like (simile) dead bodies in the grave of the soil till the East Wind blows in spring. The East Wind is the West Wind’s sister and is called ‘azure sister’, because it blows during spring when the sky is clear and deep blue in colour. It wakes up the earth that has been sleeping and dreaming during winter by announcing the arrival of spring which fills the plains and hills with colours and smells of flowers.

Lines 13, 14: The poet calls the West Wind that is moving everywhere destroyer and preserver. It is a destroyer because it prepares the trees for winter, which is symbolically the season of death, by bringing down the leaves and seeds. It is also a preserver because by bringing down the dead leaves and seeds it prepares everything for a new birth in spring.

Lines 15 to 21: The West Wind brings along with it clouds which are messengers of lightning and rain. These clouds are compared to (simile) dead leaves being shed from the tangled branches of the tree of heaven and ocean. The clouds spread across the sky by the West Wind are compared to (simile) the uplifted hair of a female follower of Bacchus, the Greek god of wine and fertility.

Lines 21 to 23: The clouds are spread from the horizon to the zenith (metaphor) like the hair of the approaching storm. The storm is personified here.

Lines 24 to 28: The poet calls the West Wind the funeral song of the year coming to an end. The night sky or the autumn or winter sky becomes the dome of a vast sepulchre enclosing the dying earth. Within this sepulchre is enclosed the West wind with all its might and filled with clouds that will bring forth rain, lightning and hail.

Lines 29 to 36: The West Wind blowing in autumn wakes up the Mediterranean Sea from its summer sleep. It seems to have been put to sleep by the clear, winding streams emptying into it in Baeae’s Bay. The sea reflects old palaces and towers covered by moss and flowers along its shores and the shadows of these in the calm waters tremble in the ripples and in the summer heat. The scene is so sweet that one would faint while describing it.

Lines 36 to 41: The West Wind splits the calm and the level Atlantic Ocean causing huge chasms on its surface; it affects the bottom of the ocean too. The underwater sapless plants are depicted as getting frightened and spoiling themselves.

Lines 43 to 47: The poet wishes he were a dead leaf or a swift cloud or a wave to experience the West Wind’s power and share in its strength. He is only a little less free than the uncontrollable West Wind.

Lines 48 to 53: If the poet were as he was in his boyhood, full of energy and life when he could have easily beaten the West Wind in speed, he would not have asked the West Wind’s help.

Lines 53 to 56: He asks the West wind to lift him like a wave, a leaf or a cloud so that he could be freed from the thorns (metaphor) or problems of life. He too is wild, swift and proud like the West wind. But now he is chained and bent by the problems of life.

Lines 57 to 61: The poet asks the West Wind to make him its lyre like the forest and produce sad but sweet autumnal music. Indirectly he is asking the wind to share its powers (Be … My Spirit! Be thou me)and inspire him so that he can produce sweet poetry.

Lines 61 to 64: He asks the West Wind to spread his unaccepted ideas to the world so that they can give birth to a new way of life (simile) just as dead leaves help seeds to sprout.

Lines 65 to 69: By reciting poetry, he hopes to scatter his words (simile) like ashes and sparks from an undying fire.

Line 70: He expresses optimism (hope) that just as spring follows winter, his sadness will be followed by joy, and his ideas which were not accepted would be accepted.

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Anonymous said...
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Angela Knight said...

One of the most powerful pieces of literature ever written on planet earth. The real greatness of the poem lies in its capability to evoke human thoughts and sensibilities. Shelley dreams of a world which follows new sets of ideas and ideologies. Thanks for sharing the post.
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