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Today, a short post with a longish poem, Shelley's marvelous "Ode to the West Wind", one of the best-loved of his poems, and a true representation of the Romantic movement in poetry from the 19th century.

The poem is composed in five sections, each consisting of five stanzas. The rhyme scheme of each of the stanzas is ABA BCB CDC DED EE, although there are places where Shelley uses slant rhyme (e.g., "thou" with "low" and "blow"; things that rhyme with "air" with "hear"). Each of the first three section addresses the West Wind directly, and ends with "O hear!" In the fourth section, he compares himself to the West Wind, wishing he were as free as the wind. In the final section, Shelley asks the West Wind to sound him like an instrument, referring to his own aging (dropping leaves). He basically asks for the power to go out strong, concluding with a hopeful couplet, part of which is in the icon above: "If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"

Ode to the West Wind
by Percy Bysshe Shelley

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The wingèd seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow

Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:

Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and Preserver; hear, O hear!

Thou on whose stream, ‘mid the steep sky’s commotion,
Loose clouds like Earth’s decaying leaves are shed,
Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean,

Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread
On the blue surface of thine airy surge,
Like the bright hair uplifted from the head

Of some fierce Maenad*, even from the dim verge
Of the horizon to the zenith’s height,
The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge

Of the dying year, to which this closing night
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre
Vaulted with all thy congregated might

Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere
Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: O hear!

Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams
The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,
Lulled by the coil of his crystalline streams,

Beside a pumice isle in Baiae’s bay**,
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
Quivering within the wave’s intenser day,

All overgrown with azure moss and flowers
So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou
For whose path the Atlantic’s level powers

Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below
The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear
The sapless foliage of the ocean, know

Thy voice, and suddenly grow grey with fear,
And tremble and despoil themselves: O hear!

If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;
If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;
A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share

The impulse of thy strength, only less free
Than thou, O Uncontrollable! If even
I were as in my boyhood, and could be

The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven,
As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed
Scarce seemed a vision; I would ne’er have striven

As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
Oh! lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!

A heavy weight of hours has chained and bowed
One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud.

Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies

Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,

Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawakened Earth

The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

*Maenad: a female follower of Dionysus
**Baiea: an ancient mineral spring and resort near Naples, Italy

With the first snow scheduled to fall here in New Jersey this weekend, I am not yet tired of winter; still, "if Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"

Hoping for a more productive 2016 here at my blog, and here in my house.

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 20th, 2016 03:45 am (UTC)
I have loved this poem since we read it in high school. I once read it aloud after a Samhain ritual; it seemed fitting.
Jan. 22nd, 2016 10:53 pm (UTC)
It sounds perfect for Samhain!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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