Review: Ode to the West Wind

One of the renowned English Romantic poets, Percy Bysshe Shelley, wrote Ode to the West Wind. This poem consists of seven parts; each part contains five stanzas in iambic pentameter. Each of the seven parts of Ode to the West Wind follows the rhyming scheme: ABA BCB CDC DED EE.

In the poem, Shelley speaker invokes the wild West Wind of autumn. By using the symbol of wind, Shelley basically explains the cycle of life. Shelley was peculiarly fascinated by the wind, and ancient symbol of life animating forces and he said in “A defense of Poetry”:

“…the mind in creation is as a fading coal which some invisible influence like like an inconstant wind, wakens to transitory brightness”

This is significant, equally significant is Shelley feelings about winter being dismal and sad, not merely by a traditional belief but for a personal reason. Shelley left England in March 1818, politically disillusioned. In 1817, a year earlier, he was personally hit by the decision of Lord Chancellor that, owing to his views, he was unfit to bring up the two children of his first marriage. The Prometheus who triumphs over tyranny after abjuring vengeance is the Shelley of late 1819, of the three children born to Mary. One had died in England and it was partly a fear of losing the other two to Lord Chancellor as Harriet’s children had been lost then had caused the departure to Italy.  The following lines, no doubt, refer to three-year-old William:

“A swift and hidden spirit of decay which made its victim, as declining day

Grows beautiful ere darkness”

The poem was written out of a specific real life experience. The poem itself is the evidence of the poet’s personal experience of the West Wind and his speculation of it. The poem is full of symbols and imageries, similes, and metaphors. The perfect and apt use of the figures of speech shows the poetic potential of Shelley untarnished by unnecessarily embellished language.

The poem ends up with an optimistic note. Shelley describes that no matter what fate brings to us, there is always a new hope waiting for us. After death, there is always a new life. Alluding to the season and its impacts on human life and mind, the poet asks: “If winter comes, can spring be far behind?” Means after the cruelty that winter brings with her, the autumn is always waiting to bring revival with her.

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