Ode to the West Wind Explanation

Ode to the West Wind Explanation | Stanza by Stanza

  • December 28, 2021
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One of the major characteristics of romantic poetry is the description of nature. It is the most important element of romantic poetry. Although John Keats made his name in creating natural imagery, Shelley’s contribution was also remarkable in this regard as evident from line by line explanation of Ode to the West Wind. In his poem, Shelly with his imaginative powers creates a romantic sensation. He creates beautiful natural paintings in the form of words that his readers can easily imagine. No doubt, Shelly’s powerful imagination like other romantic poets helps him to express an idea in the form of poetry. 

It is necessary for an ode writer to create lyrical stanzas as odes are usually lyrical. In an ode, a poet always expresses his joy for an event or he glorifies natural objects. Shelly’s odes are also lyrical. In fact, he is known just for writing poetry with a strong lyric structure. Ode to the West Wind is a strong example in which his imaginative explanation of nature proves that he writes structural poetry with lyrics. 

Ode to the West Wind Explanation and Analysis

The poet in this ode glorifies nature. He personifies the wind and assigns it human powers. It destroys everything in the autumn season. In literature, poets and writers use the autumn season to express themes of despair. Shelly also does the same. In this poem, he creates a melancholic atmosphere for which he uses the natural object west wind. The poem contains five stanzas but the subject matter of the poem remains the same in all the stanzas.

Stanza-I

The poet directly addresses the West Wind and shows his readers the power of the wind. In the first stanza of the poem the poet describes a natural phenomena; journey of life from birth to death. In apparent meanings, the poet talks about the capabilities of the wind; the wind is invisible yet it can scatter the leaves. He describes colors of leaves as yellow, black, white and red. The wind moves them like sick people. He uses this example in his ode for the purpose of explanation of the role of the west wind; leaves cannot move spontaneously; therefore, it is the wind which helps them to move from one point to another.

Almost every person in the earth has felt the west wind but no one has ever felt in such a way as the poet shows explanation in his ode. It is the wind that spreads the seeds in autumn and buries them. Subsequently, the seeds start growing in the spring season. If the West Wind is melancholic then at the same it causes the growth of new plants on the earth. Apart from this, Wind Wind also spreads the fragrance of flowers while scattering them here and there.

In this stanza, readers do not only realize Shelly’s treatment of nature as an object of prime inspiration but also as a source of natural phenomena. We see wind as an alive object of nature, which performs an action for the welfare of society and humanity. He imagines the power of wind and shows to his readers that wind is definitely a source of ingenuity. 

Stanza-II

Wind not only scatters the leaves but also moves the clouds in the sky. Without wind, clouds are helpless just like the leaves and flowers are powerless on earth. It seems that the poet just praises the beauty and duty of the west wind, which helps the clouds to move to a specific location and cause rain on earth. 

In this stanza of the poem, the readers observe that the clouds and wind are not full of actions but also act as if they are alive human beings. Nowhere we can observe such a unique style. Every romantic poet has his specific attributes. Similarly, it is Shelley’s poetry’s characteristics that he blows soul in different objects of nature.

Stanza-III Explanation of Ode to the West Wind

There is an explanation of certain images of nature in this stanza of Ode to West Wind. The poet uses blue Mediterranean, crystalline streams, isle of Baiae’s bay, palaces and towers as beautiful images in this stanza. He imagines the presence of wind on those areas of earth and shows his readers the look and feel of those places when wind blows there. He ends every stanza with the sentence “oh: hear”. It means that he is trying to talk to the wind as he has imagined it as a lively human creature. 

All the images in this stanza show that sensation is the prominent feature of Shelley’s poetry. His strong imagination adds him to the list of most romantic poets in the history of English literature.  

Stanza-IV

Romantic poets consider that it is their prime duty to explore nature. They escape from the realistic world and find pleasure in the imaginative world. The poet does the same in this ode. He escapes from the harsh world and feels himself in the arms of wind when he says “If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear; If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee”. 

As mentioned earlier, romantic poets love nature from the cores of their hearts. Shelly is also in the list of romantic poets; therefore, he wishes to fly with the west wind and wants to see each and every place explanation of which he gives in the last stanza of the ode. He requests the wind to take him with it. Reality is harsh because expectations hurt a person too much, hence, escapism is the only solution of every such problem. 

This stanza evidently shows escapism as the most important characteristics of romantic poetry. Poet’s desire to fly to a far away land, which is free from the pains and miseries of life is evident that he loves fantasies. Thus, he prays to the West Wind to lift him and take him away from the stubborn miseries of life.

Stanza-V:

In the final lines of this stanza, the poet portrays themes of melancholy and despondence. The poet knows that he can never fly like the wind but he wishes to do so; however, when he realizes that he cannot go with him he becomes sad. Nature always attracts romantic poets, hence, he insists on going with it. Despite the fact that it is impossible for him to go and fly with the wind, he requests that he wants to be part of the west wind until the spring comes and takes over the winter. Undoubtedly, in the final stanza of the poem, the poet praises the destructive power of the west wind and wants to be a part of it. 

The poem, though does not seem political or social from any angle, yet some critics argue that there are certain elements in this poem that makes it social. Shelly talks about social change. The wind that sows the seed, scatter the leaves, change the location of clouds are symbols that the poet uses for explanation to social change in his Ode to the West Wind. Thus, the poet shows that the society is moving towards destruction and portrays change as the law of nature. 

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