A Wind For every Season

In "Ode to the West Wind," Percy Bysshe Shelley tries 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 last phase of vegetation but as the last phase of life in the individual, the imagination,

civilization and religion. Being 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 sublime 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. Heavenly images are confirmed by his use of the word "azure" which besides meaning sky

blue, also is defined, in Webster\'s Dictionary, as an "unclouded vault of heaven." The word

"azure," coupled with the word "Spring," helps show Shelley\'s view of rejuvenation. The word

"Spring" besides being a literary metaphor for rebirth also means to rise up. In line 9, Shelley uses

soft sounding phrases to communicate the blowing of the wind. This tercet acts as an introduction

and a foreshadow of what is to come later.

Shelley goes on to talk of the wind as a "Destroyer and Preserver" which brings to mind

religious overtones of different cultures such as Hinduism and Native Indian beliefs. The poem

now sees a shift of the clouds which warns of an upcoming storm. This helps Shelley begin to

work towards a final climax. He then writes of the mourning song "Of the dying year, to which

this closing night/ Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre/ Vaulted with all they congregated might"

(23-25). Again, the reader feels somewhat claustrophobic. The "closing night" feels as if it is

surrounding the author as he writes and the reader as he or she reads. The "closing night" is used

also to mean the final night. Shelley shows how he cannot have a transcendence even in an open

sky for even the sky is a "dome." The "sepulchre" is a tomb made out of rock and his imagination

and the natural world will be locked and "Vaulted" tight. But in following lines Shelley writes

how this "sepulchre" will "burst" (28). In that sense, "Vaulted" takes on the meaning of a great

leap and even a spring. Shelley uses the phrase "congregated might" not just to mean a

collaborative effort, but to represent all types of religion. Shelley seems to use obtuse phrasing to

frighten the reader and to show the long breath of the wind. Shelley wants the reader to visualize

the "dome" as having a presence like a volcano. And when the "dome" does "burst," it will act as

a "Destroyer and Preserver" and creator. The use of the words "Black rain and fire and hail..."

(28) also helps the reader prepare for the apocalyptic climax which Shelley intended.

As the rising action continues, Shelley talks of the "Mediterranean" (31) and its "summer

dreams" (30). In the dream, the reader finds the sea laying "Beside a pumice isle in Baiae\'s bay/

And saw