Speaking in structural terms, “Ode to the West Wind,” is an intriguing poem. It is divided into five cantos, or “chapters,” each containing different elements, both literally and figuratively (Bloom, 60). Throughout the first canto, we experience a recurring theme of the earth. With lines like “Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red” and “living hues and odours plain and hill,” the poet presents his first element. Continuing onto canto II, Shelley uses phrases like “loose clouds,” “thine airy surge,” and “of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere” to introduce the second element, air. Then in canto III, we see yet another element, water, represented through Shelley’s choice of setting. He makes references to the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Sea, and a bay located in Italy called Baiae’s Bay. It is likely that Shelley draws in these three elements to consolidate his reputation as a Romantic poet, who usually draw nature into their poems.
Also in cantos I through III, the speaker, who we can assume is Shelley due to consciousness...
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...ly after Peterloo’s Massacre, an event in which 18 innocent civilians were killed while listening to anti-poverty and pro-democratic demonstrations (Encyclopedia).
Much like in canto II, the reader is able to sense a feeling of doom. However, in this canto, Shelley incorporates more liquid components, and also begins to make references to humans within nature. He personifies the Mediterranean Sea as a “he” and portrays him “waken[ing] from his summer-dreams.” This peaceful image does not last long, however. We are soon dragged into a storm raging over the ocean, causing “quivering within the wave’s intenser day.” Shelley seems to be entranced by this awe-inspiring storm as he figuratively observes the “sea-blooms…grow gray with fear.” We are able to see, through Shelley’s words, how the West Wind has interacted with three elements: the earth, the air, and the water.
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