Romanticism and Shelley's Ode to the West Wind Essay

Romanticism and Shelley's Ode to the West Wind Essay

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Romanticism and Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind"

 
  M.H. Abrams wrote, "The Romantic period was eminently an age obsessed with fact of violent change" ("Revolution" 659). And Percy Shelley is often thought of as the quintessential Romantic poet (Appelbaum x). The "Ode to the West Wind" expresses perfectly the aims and views of the Romantic period.

Shelley's poem expresses the yearning for Genius. In the Romantic era, it was common to associate genius with an attendant spirit or force of nature from which the genius came; the Romantics perceived the artist as a vessel through which the genius flows. For instance, in "A Defence of Poetry," Shelley says that poets are

the hierophants of an unapprehended inspiration, the mirrors of

the gigantic shadows which futurity casts upon the present . . .

(Defence 817)

In "Ode to the West Wind," Shelley implores the West Wind, a powerful force of nature that Shelley identifies with his rapidly-changing reality, to "lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!" He also expresses his almost-melancholy wish that he could be as

I were in my boyhood, and could be

The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven (Ode 815)

"Ode to the West Wind" invokes the attendant spirit from which Genius comes to grant Creativity also. "If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear," he pleads, "If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee" (Ode 815). In the fifth section, he begs the West Wind (which he identifies with himself early in the section) to

Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth,

Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind! (Ode 815)

Again, Shelley is asking the force that provides inspiration to act through him.

"Ode to the West Wind" also expresses the hungering f...


... middle of paper ...


...sires for the world, and believes could be possible. Shelley's poem is his attempt to let the West Wind work through him.

Works Cited and Consulted:

Appelbaum, Stanley. Introduction to English Romantic Poetry: An Anthology. Mineola, New York: Dover, 1996. iii-xii

"Percy Bysshe Shelley." Norton Anthology: World Masterpieces, Volume Two. Ed. Maynard Mack. New York: Norton, 1995. p. 811-812.

"Revolution and Romanticism in Europe and America." Norton Anthology: World Masterpieces, Volume Two. Ed. Maynard Mack. New York: Norton, 1995. p. 657-664.

Shelley, Percy Bysshe. "A Defence of Poetry." Norton Anthology: World Masterpieces, Volume Two. Ed. Maynard Mack. New York: Norton, 1995. p. 816-817

Shelley, Percy Bysshe. "Ode to the West Wind." Norton Anthology: World Masterpieces, Volume Two. Ed. Maynard Mack. New York: Norton, 1995. p. 814-815.

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