Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ode to the West Wind

Ode to the West Wind
By Percy Shelley

Link to text:http://www.rc.umd.edu/rchs/reader/westwind.html

Although this poem is titled as an ode to the wind, Shelley is actually describing the poet's role as an instrument for moral and political change. In describing the wind, he discusses how he wishes his words could be swept around the world like the wind blows. He also goes into great depth describing how the wind effects all of nature. The wind changes the seasons and weather, even changing things underwater. Shelley desires that sort of ability; he wants to have that sort of wide-ranging effect on people.

The poet's ability to reach people was especially dear to Shelley, who was in self-imposed exile in Italy when he composed his poem. He spent the rest of his life away from England and found it difficult to reach a large English audience with his poetry. "Ode to the West Wind" is sort of a description of his life-long goal. England, in the throws of the Industrial Revolution, was constantly changing and modernizing. Shelley lamented not being able to shape this change in any substantial way from his Italian home.

So instead of being an ode to the west wind, this poem is actually about poets. Shelley was truly writing to change the world; he believed poetry had a transformative power. "Ode to the West Wind" is a cry asking for the ability to make the change he desired.

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