Percy Bysshe Shelley (rough draft)
3/14/04


AP Lit Pd. 3


From the early 19th century, Percy Bysshe Shelley is recognized as one of the most influential writers of the Romantic Period whose work is characterized by his use of imagery and symbolism. Such examples can be found in his poems such as “Ode to the West Wind,” “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty,” and “Ozymandias.” In Shelley’s view, “the poet is a dreamer, a visionary” who uses these dreams and visions to “persuade men to shake off the chains of the past, of custom, of selfishness, and to press onward to the vital task of constructing a world characterized by kindness, generosity, and love” (Shairp, Shelly as a Lyric Poet 164)


In "Ode to the West Wind," Shelley attempts to gain transcendence, for he shows that his thoughts, like the "winged seeds" (7) are trapped. The West Wind acts as a driving force for change and rejuvenation in the human and natural world. Shelley views winter not just as the last phase of vegetation but also as the last phase of life in the individual, the imagination, civilization and religion. Set in Autumn, Shelley observes the changing of the weather and its effects on the internal and external environment. By examining this poem, the reader will see that Shelley can only reach his inspiration by having the wind carry his "dead thoughts" (63), which through an apocalyptic destruction, will lead to a rejuvenation of the imagination, the individual and the natural world. Shelley begins his poem by addressing the "Wild West Wind" (1). He quickly introduces the theme of death and compares the dead leaves to "ghosts" (3). The imagery of "Pestilence-stricken multitudes" makes the reader aware that Shelley is addressing more than a pile of leaves. His claustrophobic mood becomes evident when he talks of the "wintry bed" (6) and "The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low/ Each like a corpse within its grave, until/ Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow" (7-9). In the first line, Shelley use the phrase "winged seeds" which presents images of flying and freedom. The only problem is that they lay "cold and low" or unnourished or not elevated. He likens this with a feeling of being trapped. The important word is "seeds" for it shows that even in death, new life will grow out of the "grave." The phrase "winged seeds" also brings images of religions, angels, and/or souls that continue to create new life.


The arrangement and structure of the stanzas also serve purpose to emphasize Shelley’s theme (Shelley, Complete Poems…233). The stanzas are made up of interlinking three-line units with the rhyme scheme ababcbcdc, continuing this to the end of the stanza:


O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being, (a)


Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead (b)


Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing, (a)


Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red, (b)


Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou, (c)


Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed (b)


The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low, (c)


Each like a corpse within its grave, until (d)


Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow (c)


Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill (d)


(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air) (e)


With living hues and odours plain and hill (d)


Wild spirits, which art moving everywhere; (e)


Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh, hear! (modified e)


In this, Shelley grasps a vision and exaggerates it to the point that “it should awaken thoughts about the future:


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?”


The first two stanzas carry the type of movement, much like that of the wind, through their rhyme schemes. The third stanza discusses the slowing down of the movement, while the next resumes with the wind movement apparent in the first stanza. Finally, the poem culminates with the “trumpet of a prophecy.”


In Shelley’s “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty”, he symbolizes his comprehension of the power of human intellect through a number of stanzas in which he outlines the qualities of this power. In the first stanza, the concept of the “unseen Power”, or the mind, is introduced, and Shelley