“Ode to the West Wind” by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

The essay focus on the poem “Ode to the west wind”, by Percy Bysshe Shelley, who was born in 1792, educated at Eton and University College, Oxford. In 1811 he was expelled from Oxford for circulating a pamphlet, “The necessity of Atheism”. In same year he married the under-aged Harriet from whom he separated after three years. In 1818 Shelley left England in search of a new home and identity. On 8 July 1822, he was drowned in the Gulf of Spezzia while sailing in a boat with his friend, Edward Williams. His remains were buried in the Protestant cemetery in Rome. Here, the work Ode to the west wind is used as a tool for the argument. As you know, Shelley’s great theme in poetry was the perfectibility of man and the creation of a new heaven on earth by destroying that entire stand for tyranny. This poem was written on the influence of the tempestuous wind which Shelley experienced in a wood that skirts the Arno, near Florence.

My thesis statement is that Shelley’s revolutionary ideas resulted in a negative influence on the young generation. As a social being, human beings must obey the laws and regulations set by the society. The laws and regulations in the society is formed for the wellbeing of human beings, not to restrict them. Percy Bysshe Shelley was basically a romantic revolutionary poet and influenced the young generation. His revolutionary ideas acted as an inspiration for the youth in Europe. He was unconventional from his childhood itself. In religion, he denied the divinity of Christ and considered Christianity as a monstrous superstition. Moreover, he was against marriage. He recognized the independence of man and nature and felt the presence of some power pervading the universe. Through his poetry, Shelley opposed religion, politics, and social convention.

The west wind in the poem symbolizes the forces of destruction as well as regeneration.

It is to be argued that the revolutionary idea of the poet admits violence and it is against the established norms and conditions of the modern society. The poet looks upon the west wind as the very spirit of autumn season. The poet addresses the west wind like a human being and he imagines that the west wind to be an enchanter driving away the ghosts to whom the dead leaves are compared. “Thou from whose unseen presence the leaves dead Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing.” (Shelley, lines-3&4) Here, the dead leaves stands for the old habits, and the west wind here signifies the revolutionary necessity to abolish such habits.

There are so many negative symbols that are used to enrich the vocabulary of the poem. It may exert a negative influence on the readers. Revolution is an ideology, which influenced the youth, forced them to fight and to sacrifice their valuable life for others. The poet pictures the clouds as leaves on the entangled branches of trees in heaven and ocean. The clouds are considered as the heralds of rain and the lightning is shaken by the wind and they fall to earth as rain. Since the year dies in autumn, the wind sings the funeral song of the year.

The aim of revolution is to make disturbance and to chide the people. The whole society is transformed but the individual loses his/her freedom. The west wind disturbs and wakes the Mediterranean Sea. Throughout the year, the Mediterranean Sea seems to be sleeping. So the west wind disturbs the sea. The vegetation at the bottom of the sea knows the voice of the west wind; it turns grey in fear, trembles and denudes itself of all its leaves.

The romantic and revolutionary ideas are only illusions. The poet himself knows that nothing is going to happen to the society but he perform his duty. In the last stanzas the poet offers his prayer to the west wind. The poet prays that if he were a dead leaf, a swift cloud or a wave, he would have been happy to be conveyed by the west wind. “Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud; I fall upon the thorns of life; I bleed:”( Shelley, lines-53&54) the poet says that his life is not a perfect one and he feels it like thorn bush and he is bleeding. The harsh realities of life s like thorn bush and there is high chance for sensitive persons to get wounded by the same.

Without accepting the present situation, the poet is remembering his past days.In the youth, one may be able to do all sorts of work but an aged person cnnot perform the same. Once the poet was free, swift and proud like the west wind, but he has lost his freedom with the passage of time. “A heavy weight of hours has chained, and bowed.

One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud.” (Shelley, lines-55&56) now he is a man, who lost his freedom. If he tries to be free, it will be considered as madness.

The poet wants to spread his ideas to others in the society. It is a crime to exert a negative influence upon others to give up their life for the wellbeing of the whole society. If a person is ready or not ready to perform his duties, the society will help him. The poet wants the west wind to drive his dead thoughts over the universe so that his thoughts will kindle new ideas and bring about a regeration of mankind, just as the dead leaves driven by the west wind.“Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind:” (Shelley, lines-63-67) so the west wind should scatter the poet’s ideas among mankind. Here the death and rebirth is considered as a cyclic process.

By concluding, we can see that the poem begins in a tone of impatient indignation and then passes on to a state of utter helplessness and sadness, but ends in a note of hope. If it is argued that the poem exerts a negative influence on the youth it cannot be neglected. But most of the readers consider this poem as the best example for the romantic revolutionary ideology of that age. The last lines of the poem reveal the intuition and expectation of the poet for a revolution which is aimed to transform the society.

Works Cited

Shelley, Percy Bysshe. Ode to the West Wind. PoemHunter.com. 1792-1822. 2008. Web.