Percy Bysshe Shelley was the definition of a Romantic poet. His philosophical ideals emphasized the importance of aestheticism and his poetry clearly portrayed the beauty and majesty of the natural world. Like many of his Romantic peers, Shelley’s own life was short, tragic, and full of hardships. Drowned in a boating accident before the age of thirty, his one desire that his words would impact and inspire did not become a reality until long after his departure. In his poem, “Ode to the West Wind,” Shelley uses symbolism, simile, meter, imagery, and many other devices to present the power of nature and the speaker’s hope for this power to become part of him in his mission to bring about inspiration and transformation for creative processes.
The poem is divided into five stanzas, each fourteen lines with a couplet at its end, suspiciously resembling a sonnet. In the first of these stanzas, Shelley begins his ode describing the power and influence of the west wind to bring about death. The sheer control of the wind is represented in the ode’s form. The compactness of the stanza couplet sequences gives each part of Shelley’s work a compactness and solidarity (Ahn). Through the use of simile and imagery, he gives the power of the wind a sinister feeling when he compares the leaves to “ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,” and again with the phrase “chariotest to their dark wintry bed.” To understand Shelley’s dark tone, a search into the poems background shows that at the time the ode was pinned, he was recovering from the death of his son William and negative reviews of his latest works (Ahn).
More importantly, this stanza introduces the important idea that the wind has dual natures, one being destruction and the other in contrast preservation. It is best explained by the idea that the wind “shatters established structures that new ones may be built from their ruins; it scatters the withered leaves, but in order to quicken a new birth” (Fogle). Similarly in life, sometimes the old must be drawn out to make way for the new. This concept can be applied to many religions, for example in Christianity it is believed that a person is washed clean by the blood of Jesus. The old is gone and a new creation in Christ is left behind. In the transition from adolescence to adulthood, a change occurs. Characteristics like innocence and purity are often destroyed but others such as wisdom and experience are preserved and then strengthened.
Following the suit of its predecessor, the second stanza again accentuates the power of nature, specifically the rain over the leaves. Simile is used to portray the clouds as “Earth’s decaying leaves” as a storm is brewing. Shelley is showing the power of natural phenomenon through imagery of a lighting storm. As in the first stanza, the rain like the wind is a key part in nature’s regenerative processes (Napierkowski and Ruby 165). Through the use of allusion Shelley compares the “airy surge” to a “fierce...