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Percy B.

Shelley

Context
Percy Bysshe Shelley was born in 1792, into a wealthy Sussex family which eventually attained minor noble rankthe poets grandfather, a wealthy businessman, received a baronetcy in 1806. Timothy Shelley, the poets father, was a member of Parliament and a country gentleman. The young Shelley entered Eton, a prestigious school for boys, at the age of twelve. While he was there, he discovered the works of a philosopher named William Godwin, which he consumed passionately and in which he became a fervent believer; the young man wholeheartedly embraced the ideals of liberty and equality espoused by the French Revolution, and devoted his considerable passion and persuasive power to convincing others of the rightness of his beliefs. Entering Oxford in 1810, Shelley was expelled the following spring for his part in authoring a pamphlet entitled The Necessity of Atheismatheism being an outrageous idea in religiously conservative nineteenth-century England. At the age of nineteen, Shelley eloped with Harriet Westbrook, the sixteen-year-old daughter of a tavern keeper, whom he married despite his inherent dislike for the tavern. Not long after, he made the personal acquaintance of William Godwin in London, and promptly fell in love with Godwins daughter Mary Wollstonecraft, whom he was eventually able to marry, and who is now remembered primarily as the author of Frankenstein. In 1816, the Shelleys traveled to Switzerland to meet Lord Byron, the most famous, celebrated, and controversial poet of the era; the two men became close friends. After a time, they formed a circle of English expatriates in Pisa, traveling throughout Italy; during this time Shelley wrote most of his finest lyric poetry, including the immortal Ode to the West Wind and To a Skylark. In 1822, Shelley drowned while sailing in a storm off the Italian coast. He was not yet thirty years old. Shelley belongs to the younger generation of English Romantic poets, the generation that came to prominence while William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge were settling into middle age. Where the older generation was marked by simple ideals and a reverence for nature, the poets of the younger generation (which also included John Keats and the infamous Lord Byron) came to be known for their sensuous aestheticism, their explorations of intense passions, their political radicalism, and their tragically short lives. Shelley died when he was twenty-nine, Byron when he was thirty-six, and Keats when he was only twenty-six years old. To an extent, the intensity of feeling emphasized by Romanticism meant that the movement was always associated with youth, and because Byron, Keats, and Shelley died young (and never had the opportunity to sink into conservatism and complacency as Wordsworth did), they have attained iconic status as the representative tragic Romantic artists. Shelleys life and his poetry certainly support such an understanding, but it is important not to indulge in stereotypes to the extent that they obscure a poets individual character. Shelleys joy, his magnanimity, his faith in humanity, and his optimism are unique among the Romantics; his expression of those feelings makes him one of the early nineteenth centurys most significant writers in English.

Analysis
The central thematic concerns of Shelleys poetry are largely the same themes that defined Romanticism, especially among the younger English poets of Shelleys era: beauty, the passions, nature, political liberty, creativity, and the sanctity of the imagination. What makes Shelleys treatment of these themes unique is his philosophical relationship to his subject matterwhich was better developed and articulated than that of any other Romantic poet with the possible exception of Wordsworthand his temperament, which was extraordinarily sensitive and responsive even for a Romantic poet, and which possessed an extraordinary capacity for joy, love, and hope. Shelley fervently believed in the possibility of realizing an ideal of human happiness as based on beauty, and his moments of darkness and despair (he had many, particularly in book-length poems such as the monumental Queen Mab) almost always stem from his disappointment at seeing that ideal sacrificed to human weakness. Shelleys intense feelings about beauty and expression are documented in poems such as Ode to the West Wind and To a Skylark, in which he invokes metaphors from nature to characterize his relationship to his art. The center of his aesthetic philosophy can be found in his important essay A Defence of Poetry, in which he argues that poetry brings about moral good. Poetry, Shelley argues, exercises and expands the imagination, and the imagination is the source of sympathy, compassion, and love, which rest on the ability to project oneself into the position of another person. He writes, A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many others. The pains and pleasures of his species must become his own. The great instrument of moral good is the imagination; and poetry administers to the effect by acting upon the cause. Poetry enlarges the circumference of the imagination by replenishing it with thoughts of ever new delight, which have the power of attracting and assimilating to their own nature all other thoughts, and which form new intervals and interstices whose void forever craves fresh food. Poetry strengthens the faculty which is the organ of the moral nature of man, in the same manner as exercise strengthens a limb. No other English poet of the early nineteenth century so emphasized the connection between beauty and goodness, or believed so avidly in the power of arts sensual pleasures to improve society. Byrons pose was one of amoral sensuousness, or of controversial rebelliousness; Keats believed in beauty and aesthetics for their own sake. But Shelley was able to believe that poetry makes people and society better; his poetry is suffused with this kind of inspired moral optimism, which he hoped would affect his readers sensuously, spiritually, and morally, all at the same time.

Themes, Motifs & Symbols


Themes
The Heroic, Visionary Role of the Poet In Shelleys poetry, the figure of the poet (and, to some extent, the figure of Shelley himself) is not simply a talented entertainer or even a perceptive moralist but a grand, tragic, prophetic hero. The poet has a deep, mystic appreciation for nature, as in the poem To Wordsworth (1816), and this intense connection with the natural world gives him access to profound cosmic truths, as in Alastor; or, The Spirit of Solitude (1816). He has the powerand the dutyto translate these truths, through the use of his imagination, into poetry, but only a kind of poetry that the public can understand. Thus, his poetry becomes a kind of prophecy, and through his words, a poet has the ability to change the world for the better and to bring about political, social, and spiritual change. Shelleys poet is a neardivine savior, comparable to Prometheus, who stole divine fire and gave it to humans in Greek mythology, and to Christ. Like Prometheus and Christ, figures of the poets in Shelleys work are often doomed to suffer: because their visionary power isolates them from other men, because they are misunderstood by critics, because they are persecuted by a tyrannical government, or because they

are suffocated by conventional religion and middle-class values. In the end, however, the poet triumphs because his art is immortal, outlasting the tyranny of government, religion, and society and living on to inspire new generations. The Power of Nature Like many of the romantic poets, especially William Wordsworth, Shelley demonstrates a great reverence for the beauty of nature, and he feels closely connected to natures power. In his early poetry, Shelley shares the romantic interest in pantheismthe belief that God, or a divine, unifying spirit, runs through everything in the universe. He refers to this unifying natural force in many poems, describing it as the spirit of beauty in Hymn to Intellectual Beauty and identifying it with Mont Blanc and the Arve River in Mont Blanc. This force is the cause of all human joy, faith, goodness, and pleasure, and it is also the source of poetic inspiration and divine truth. Shelley asserts several times that this force can influence people to change the world for the better. However, Shelley simultaneously recognizes that natures power is not wholly positive. Nature destroys as often as it inspires or creates, and it destroys cruelly and indiscriminately. For this reason, Shelleys delight in nature is mitigated by an awareness of its dark side. The Power of the Human Mind Shelley uses nature as his primary source of poetic inspiration. In such poems as The Mask of Anarchy Written on the Occasion of the Massacre at Manchester (1819) and Ode to the West Wind, Shelley suggests that the natural world holds a sublime power over his imagination. This power seems to come from a stranger, more mystical place than simply his appreciation for natures beauty or grandeur. At the same time, although nature has creative power over Shelley because it provides inspiration, he feels that his imagination has creative power over nature. It is the imaginationor our ability to form sensory perceptionsthat allows us to describe nature in different, original ways, which help to shape how nature appears and, therefore, how it exists. Thus, the power of the human mind becomes equal to the power of nature, and the experience of beauty in the natural world becomes a kind of collaboration between the perceiver and the perceived. Because Shelley cannot be sure that the sublime powers he senses in nature are only the result of his gifted imagination, he finds it difficult to attribute natures power to God: the human role in shaping nature damages Shelleys ability to believe that natures beauty comes solely from a divine source.

Motifs
Autumn Shelley sets many of his poems in autumn, including Hymn to Intellectual Beauty and Ode to the West Wind. Fall is a time of beauty and death, and so it shows both the creative and destructive powers of nature, a favorite Shelley theme. As a time of change, autumn is a fitting backdrop for Shelleys vision of political and social revolution. In Ode to the West Wind, autumns brilliant colors and violent winds emphasize the passionate, intense nature of the poet, while the decay and death inherent in the season suggest the sacrifice and martyrdom of the Christ-like poet.

Ghosts and Spirits Shelleys interest in the supernatural repeatedly appears in his work. The ghosts and spirits in his poems suggest the possibility of glimpsing a world beyond the one in which we live. In Hymn to Intellectual Beauty, the speaker searches for ghosts and explains that ghosts are one of the ways men have tried to interpret the world beyond. The speaker of Mont Blanc encounters ghosts and shadows of real natural objects in the cave of Poesy. Ghosts are inadequate in both poems: the speaker finds no ghosts in Hymn to Intellectual Beauty, and the ghosts of Poesy in Mont Blanc are not the real thing, a discovery that emphasizes the elusiveness and mystery of supernatural forces. Christ From his days at Oxford, Shelley felt deeply doubtful about organized religion, particularly Christianity. Yet, in his poetry, he often represents the poet as a Christ-like figure and thus sets the poet up as a secular replacement for Christ. Martyred by society and conventional values, the Christ figure is resurrected by the power of nature and his own imagination and spreads his prophetic visions over the earth. Shelley further separates his Christ figures from traditional Christian values in Adonais, in which he compares the same character to Christ, as well as Cain, whom the Bible portrays as the worlds first murderer. For Shelley, Christ and Cain are both outcasts and rebels, like romantic poets and like himself.

Symbols
Mont Blanc For Shelley, Mont Blancthe highest peak in the Alpsrepresents the eternal power of nature. Mont Blanc has existed forever, and it will last forever, an idea he explores in Mont Blanc. The mountain fills the poet with inspiration, but its coldness and inaccessibility are terrifying. Ultimately, though, Shelley wonders if the mountains power might be meaningless, an invention of the more powerful human imagination. The West Wind Shelley uses the West Wind to symbolize the power of nature and of the imagination inspired by nature. Unlike Mont Blanc, however, the West Wind is active and dynamic in poems, such as Ode to the West Wind. While Mont Blanc is immobile, the West Wind is an agent for change. Even as it destroys, the wind encourages new life on earth and social progress among humanity. The Statue of Ozymandias In Shelleys work, the statue of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II, or Ozymandias, symbolizes political tyranny. In Ozymandias, (1817) the statue is broken into pieces and stranded in an empty desert, which suggests that tyranny is temporary and also that no political leader, particularly an unjust one, can hope to have lasting power or real influence. The broken monument also represents the decay of civilization and culture: the statue is, after all, a human construction, a piece of art made by a

creator, and now itand its creatorhave been destroyed, as all living things are eventually destroyed.

To a Skylark
Summary
The speaker, addressing a skylark, says that it is a blithe Spirit rather than a bird, for its song comes from Heaven, and from its full heart pours profuse strains of unpremeditated art. The skylark flies higher and higher, like a cloud of fire in the blue sky, singing as it flies. In the golden lightning of the sun, it floats and runs, like an unbodied joy. As the skylark flies higher and higher, the speaker loses sight of it, but is still able to hear its shrill delight, which comes down as keenly as moonbeams in the white dawn, which can be felt even when they are not seen. The earth and air ring with the skylarks voice, just as Heaven overflows with moonbeams when the moon shines out from behind a lonely cloud. The speaker says that no one knows what the skylark is, for it is unique: even rainbow clouds do not rain as brightly as the shower of melody that pours from the skylark. The bird is like a poet hidden / In the light of thought, able to make the world experience sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not. It is like a lonely maiden in a palace tower, who uses her song to soothe her lovelorn soul. It is like a golden glow-worm, scattering light among the flowers and grass in which it is hidden. It is like a rose embowered in its own green leaves, whose scent is blown by the wind until the bees are faint with too much sweet. The skylarks song surpasses all that ever was, / Joyous and clear and fresh, whether the rain falling on the twinkling grass or the flowers the rain awakens. Calling the skylark Sprite or Bird, the speaker asks it to tell him its sweet thoughts, for he has never heard anyone or anything call up a flood of rapture so divine. Compared to the skylarks, any music would seem lacking. What objects, the speaker asks, are the fountains of thy happy strain? Is it fields, waves, mountains, the sky, the plain, or love of thine own kind or ignorance or pain? Pain and languor, the speaker says, never came near the skylark: it loves, but has never known loves sad satiety. Of death, the skylark must know things more true and deep than mortals could dream; otherwise, the speaker asks, how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream? For mortals, the experience of happiness is bound inextricably with the experience of sadness: dwelling upon memories and hopes for the future, mortal men pine for what is not; their laughter is fraught with some pain; their sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought. But, the speaker says, even if men could scorn / Hate and pride and fear, and were born without the capacity to weep, he still does not know how they could ever approximate the joy expressed by the skylark. Calling the bird a scorner of the ground, he says that its music is better than all music and all poetry. He asks the bird to teach him half the gladness / That thy brain must know, for then he would overflow with harmonious madness, and his song would be so beautiful that the world would listen to him, even as he is now listening to the skylark.

Form
The eccentric, songlike, five-line stanzas of To a Skylarkall twenty-one of themfollow the same pattern: the first four lines are metered in trochaic trimeter, the fifth in iambic hexameter (a line which can also be called an Alexandrine). The rhyme scheme of each stanza is extremely simple: ABABB.

Commentary
If the West Wind was Shelleys first convincing attempt to articulate an aesthetic philosophy through metaphors of nature, the skylark is his greatest natural metaphor for pure poetic expression, the harmonious madness of pure inspiration. The skylarks song issues from a state of purified existence, a Wordsworthian notion of complete unity with Heaven through nature; its song is motivated by the joy of that uncomplicated purity of being, and is unmixed with any hint of melancholy or of the bittersweet, as human joy so often is. The skylarks unimpeded song rains down upon the world, surpassing every other beauty, inspiring metaphor and making the speaker believe that the bird is not a mortal bird at all, but a Spirit, a sprite, a poet hidden / In the light of thought. In that sense, the skylark is almost an exact twin of the bird in Keatss Ode to a Nightingale; both represent pure expression through their songs, and like the skylark, the nightingale wast not born for death. But while the nightingale is a bird of darkness, invisible in the shadowy forest glades, the skylark is a bird of daylight, invisible in the deep bright blue of the sky. The nightingale inspires Keats to feel a drowsy numbness of happiness that is also like pain, and that makes him think of death; the skylark inspires Shelley to feel a frantic, rapturous joy that has no part of pain. To Keats, human joy and sadness are inextricably linked, as he explains at length in the final stanza of the Ode on Melancholy. But the skylark sings free of all human error and complexity, and while listening to his song, the poet feels free of those things, too. Structurally and linguistically, this poem is almost unique among Shelleys works; its strange form of stanza, with four compact lines and one very long line, and its lilting, songlike diction (profuse strains of unpremeditated art) work to create the effect of spontaneous poetic expression flowing musically and naturally from the poets mind. Structurally, each stanza tends to make a single, quick point about the skylark, or to look at it in a sudden, brief new light; still, the poem does flow, and gradually advances the mini-narrative of the speaker watching the skylark flying higher and higher into the sky, and envying its untrammeled inspirationwhich, if he were to capture it in words, would cause the world to listen.

Ode to the West Wind


Summary
The speaker invokes the wild West Wind of autumn, which scatters the dead leaves and spreads seeds so that they may be nurtured by the spring, and asks that the wind, a destroyer and preserver, hear him. The speaker calls the wind the dirge / Of the dying year, and describes how it stirs up violent storms, and again implores it to hear him. The speaker says that the wind stirs the Mediterranean from his summer dreams, and cleaves the Atlantic into choppy chasms, making the sapless foliage of the ocean tremble, and asks for a third time that it hear him. The speaker says that if he were a dead leaf that the wind could bear, or a cloud it could carry, or a wave it could push, or even if he were, as a boy, the comrade of the winds wandering over heaven, then he would never have needed to pray to the wind and invoke its powers. He pleads with the wind to lift him as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!for though he is like the wind at heart, untamable and proud he is now chained and bowed with the weight of his hours upon the earth. The speaker asks the wind to make me thy lyre, to be his own Spirit, and to drive his thoughts across the universe, like withered leaves, to quicken a new birth. He asks the wind, by the incantation of this verse, to scatter his words among mankind, to be the trumpet of a prophecy. Speaking both in regard to the season and in regard to the effect upon mankind that he hopes his words to have, the speaker asks: If winter comes, can spring be far behind?

Form
Each of the seven parts of Ode to the West Wind contains five stanzasfour three-line stanzas and a two-line couplet, all metered in iambic pentameter. The rhyme scheme in each part follows a pattern known as terza rima, the three-line rhyme scheme employed by Dante in his Divine Comedy. In the three-line terza rima stanza, the first and third lines rhyme, and the middle line does not; then the end sound of that middle line is employed as the rhyme for the first and third lines in the next stanza. The final couplet rhymes with the middle line of the last three-line stanza. Thus each of the seven parts of Ode to the West Wind follows this scheme: ABA BCB CDC DED EE.

Commentary
The wispy, fluid terza rima of Ode to the West Wind finds Shelley taking a long thematic leap beyond the scope of Hymn to Intellectual Beauty, and incorporating his own art into his meditation on beauty and the natural world. Shelley invokes the wind magically, describing its power and its role as both destroyer and preserver, and asks the wind to sweep him out of his torpor as a wave, a leaf, a cloud! In the fifth section, the poet then takes a remarkable turn, transforming the wind into a metaphor for his own art, the expressive capacity that drives dead thoughts like withered leaves over the universe, to quicken a new birththat is, to quicken the coming of the spring. Here the spring season is a metaphor for a spring of human consciousness, imagination, liberty, or morality all the things Shelley hoped his art could help to bring about in the human mind. Shelley asks the wind

to be his spirit, and in the same movement he makes it his metaphorical spirit, his poetic faculty, which will play him like a musical instrument, the way the wind strums the leaves of the trees. The thematic implication is significant: whereas the older generation of Romantic poets viewed nature as a source of truth and authentic experience, the younger generation largely viewed nature as a source of beauty and aesthetic experience. In this poem, Shelley explicitly links nature with art by finding powerful natural metaphors with which to express his ideas about the power, import, quality, and ultimate effect of aesthetic expression.

Mutability
The Romantic poets are known for their poetry about love, life and nature. They focus on different aspects of life, but don't normally tread into the death and despairing aspect of daily life. For that reason Percy Bysshe Shelley stands out. His strong disapproving voice made him one of the major poets in the era. He is probably most known for his poem "Ozymandias." Through his poetry the reader gets a feeling that he is bitter towards life, which is a different feel that we get from reading other romantic poets like William Wordsworth. Shelley's descriptions help give the reader a look into what he was feeling and seeing. In his poem Mutability, Shelley discusses that we are like the clouds at night; we don't last forever. In the second line of the first stanza Shelley states "How restlessly they speed, and gleam, and quiver." We go throughout life with speed; we don't take time to stop and just rest. The clouds speed across the sky almost with no place to go, and in a sense that is what we are doing. In the fourth line he says "night closes round, they are lost forever." He is telling us that once death comes and we're taken from this earth; we will be lost forever. There is no coming back from being dead. The third line of the second stanza says "To whose frail frame no second motion brings." Shelley is even saying our bodies are frail no matter how strong we may feel. These images gives the reader the opinion that he sees nothing good within life. Everything is never what it appears to be. The entire third stanza made me think he sees nothing pleasing in life. When we rest our dreams poison our sleep, when we are awake out thoughts pollute the day. He also states that we laugh and weep for no reason. We embrace our foes and and try to cast or cares away, but is that something we really can do, or are they always going to be there. As he goes on, he talks about nothing ever being the same: "Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow" (line 15). The last line of this piece says "Nought may endure but Mutability." I think he is telling us that nothing in life will ever last except for change itself. Change is always inevitable, and there is nothing we can do about it no matter how hard we try. When we look at other poems by Percy Shelley we see more of the despair within his writing. It makes one wonder if the despair he writes about comes from his own life. In his poem Dejection we feel his low spirits as the title suggest. It is the piece that gices the feeling of despair the most. Throughout the poem he seems to be completely bitter towards life and what it has dealt him. He wrote this poem through his failing health and failed marriage. The first few stanzas he talks about the things we see in life like the sun shining or the purple moon, but once readers get to the third stanza his true feelings emerge. He says there is no hope left in his life he has no health, no hope, no peace. Lines 24 to 27 Shelley says: "Nor fame, nor power, nor love, nor leisure. Others I see whom these surround.

smiling they live, and call life pleasure, to me that cup has been dealt in another measure." While he sees everyone around him getting the things in life like fame, power, love etc. he sees himself as getting nothing. He thinks while everyone else gets dealt the good things in life, he gets dealt the bad things in life like bad health, failing marriage, lose and more. By the time you get to the end of the poem he just wants death to come and take him away from the cares of life. In many of Shelley's other works we see him telling the reader that we cannot let other people take our work because then we might as well dig our own graves. The reader begines to wonder after reading so many works from Percy Shelley, if he believes that all people are innately evil, and that there is no good within the human race. When we read poetry of any poet, we learn a little bit about their lives and who the poet is. Percy Shelley is one of the poets that puts a little bit of himself into his poetry. He stood out among other poets because he did not write about life and love, but rather being bitter and spiteful. He sees despair in everything instead of joy and love. Reading Percy Shelley can actually put a new spin on poetry and what it is like.

Mutability
We are as clouds that veil the midnight moon; How restlessly they speed, and gleam, and quiver, Streaking the darkness radiantly! -yet soon Night closes round, and they are lost for ever: Or like forgotten lyres, whose dissonant strings Give various response to each varying blast, To whose frail frame no second motion brings One mood or modulation like the last. We rest. -- A dream has power to poison sleep; We rise. -- One wandering thought pollutes the day; We feel, conceive or reason, laugh or weep; Embrace fond woe, or cast our cares away: It is the same! -- For, be it joy or sorrow, The path of its departure still is free: Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow;

Nought may endure but Mutablilty. Ode to a Skylark


Hail to thee, blithe Spirit! Bird thou never wert, That from heaven, or near it, Pourest thy full heart In profuse strains of unpremeditated art. Higher still and higher From the earth thou springest Like a cloud of fire; The blue deep thou wingest, And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest. In the golden lightning Of the sunken sun, O'er which clouds are bright'ning, Thou dost float and run, Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun. The pale purple even Melts around thy flight; Like a star of heaven In the broad daylight Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight -Keen as are the arrows Of that silver sphere Whose intense lamp narrows In the white dawn clear Until we hardly see -- we feel that it is there. All the earth and air With thy voice is loud, As, when night is bare, From one lonely cloud The moon rains out her beams, and heaven is overflowed.

What thou art we know not; What is most like thee? From rainbow clouds there flow not Drops so bright to see As from thy presence showers a rain of melody. Like a poet hidden In the light of thought, Singing hymns unbidden, Till the world is wrought To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not: Like a high-born maiden In a palace tower, Soothing her love-laden Soul in secret hour With music sweet as love, which overflows her bower: Like a glow-worm golden In a dell of dew, Scattering unbeholden Its aerial hue Among the flowers and grass, which screen it from the view: Like a rose embowered In its own green leaves, By warm winds deflowered, Till the scent it gives Makes faint with too much sweet these heavy-winged thieves: Sound of vernal showers On the twinkling grass, Rain-awakened flowers, All that ever was Joyous, and clear, and fresh, thy music doth surpass. Teach us, sprite or bird, What sweet thoughts are thine: I have never heard Praise of love or wine That panted forth a flood of rapture so divine. Chorus hymeneal Or triumphal chaunt Matched with thine would be all But an empty vaunt -A thing wherein we feel there is some hidden want. What objects are the fountains Of thy happy strain? What fields, or waves, or mountains? What shapes of sky or plain? What love of thine own kind? what ignorance of pain? With thy clear keen joyance Languor cannot be: Shadow of annoyance Never came near thee: Thou lovest, but ne'er knew love's sad satiety. Waking or asleep, Thou of death must deem

Things more true and deep Than we mortals dream, Or how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream? We look before and after, And pine for what is not: Our sincerest laughter With some pain is fraught; Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought. Yet if we could scorn Hate, and pride, and fear; If we were things born Not to shed a tear, I know not how thy joy we ever should come near. Better than all measures Of delightful sound, Better than all treasures That in books are found, Thy skill to poet were, thou scorner of the ground! Teach me half the gladness That thy brain must know, Such harmonious madness From my lips would flow The world should listen then, as I am listening now!

Ode to the west wind


I 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: 0 thou, Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed The wingd 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! II 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! III 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! IV 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.

V 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?