Odeto the West Wind originates directly in that impassionedintuition which is the first condition of poetry, the wild autumn wind sweepingthrough the forest possess his imagination and becomes a living symbol of thespiritual forces which regenerate the fading or decadent life of nations,brings succor and “alliance” to forlorn heroic spirits and scatters theirburning words, “like ashes from an unextinguished hearth among mankind. Nowhere does Shelley’s voice reach a morepoignantly personal note.Ode to the West Windis the most popular poem of P.B. Shelley composed in 1819.
When Shelley was living in Florence. On a day while the poet was out of the forestthat skirts the Arno, near Florence. Theoccasion was that at sunset there began heavy autumnal rains followed by aviolent tempest of hail and rain attended by magnificent thunder and lightning,which inspired the poet to compose the great Ode which combines “lyrical andbreadth with lyrical beauty unsurpassed in English Song”. The West Wind is a force of Nature, butsymbolizes the free spirit of man, untamed, proud. It also symbolizes the inspiration of thepoet becomes the message of the prophet. Finally, the West Wind is a symbol of the law of life itself whichcontains Creation and Destruction. One very important characteristic of Ode to the West Wind is that it is an artistic wholeness. One stanza follows another in a most naturalmanner, and there is a regular development from one stanza to another.
The west wind drivingaway the dead leaves is compared to an enchanter, a magician, at whose presencethe ghosts fly away in fright. Thedescription of the dry leaves is the most suitable that can be imagine.The simile of thewinged seeds, lying cold and low like “a corpse within its grave” is a veryoriginal one, and it also shows Shelley’s accurate knowledge of the innerworking of nature’s process of growth. The same is the case with the simile comparing the sweet buds with”flocks to feed the air”. Shelley callsthe East Wind the ‘azure sister’ of the West Wind, which “blows her clarionover the dreaming earth”. So whereas, onone side, Shelley demonstrates an accurate knowledge of natural phenomenon; onthe other, he puts the reader under a spell by his original and most aptphraseology.
The movement of the linesis also so swift that it conveys the sense of impetuosity of the wind, itsferocity.West wind blowsimpetuously and swiftly in the sky, it produces great agitation, and in themiddle of the sky, the loosely hanging clouds are so tossed from one side toanother, that they look like the rotten leaves which are shed from the treesunder the influence of the West Wind. These clouds seem to be shaken from the intertwined branches of the skyand the sea. It is these clouds whichbecome the harbingers of rain and lightning. When they are spread over the blue sky, and are tossed from one side toanother, they look like the shining hairs which are raised from the head of awild fairy. When they overcast the wholeof the sky from the horizon to the highest point, ferocity and terror. The terrible noise which the West Windproduces while it blows through the sky, gives us the impression that it is thedirge. The whole sky covered over withclouds which are filled the year is to be buried.
It is from this solid atmosphere that therewill come rain and lightning and hail. It is such a swiftly moving west wind, producing great agitation in the sky, driving away the clouds and makingthem cover the whole sky, so that rain,lightning and hail may come and darken the whole atmosphere, giving theimpression of a tomb, that Shelley makes an appeal to listen to his request.