“Ode to the West Wind” was written by Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1819. At that time, the poet lived in Florence, Italy. Although the author liked this country, he was dealing with a slight depression, as he could not take part in the social and political events, which took place in his native country, England. While reading the poem, one may feel the sense of powerlessness in Shelley’s lines.
In his poem, the author states that the main role of a philosopher or a poet is to spread new ideas. Shelley uses straightforward images, and smooth tone to convey his thoughts, which makes this work rather accessible.
The protagonist appeals to the power of nature, namely to the West Wind to inspire him and help to spread his ideas. Then he lists a number of things which show the true power of wind. For example, it is capable of placing seeds in the earth, bringing thunderstorms, stirring up the oceans and so on. The speaker wishes that the wind could affect him in a way it affects the leaves, the waves and the clouds. As this cannot be done, the protagonist wants the wind to play him like a musical instrument, and the result of this musical experiment would inspire others and become prophetic. Although the West Wind is cold and brings nothing but cold winter, there is a hope as spring will come afterwards.
Percy Bysshe Shelley calls his poem an ode. The ode is a lyrical poem that has a big philosophical subject and complicated structure. Odes first appeared in classical Greek and were extremely popular among the poets of Romanticism. By entitling his poem this way, Shelley warns the reader to pay close attention to every little detail, especially the rhythm and the stanza groupings. The first section of the poem makes one point, the second establishes a contradictory one and the final one brings the two together.
As for the “West Wind”, Shelley gives his reader a hint that he is appealing to the power of nature. He makes a contrast of how the poet is bound and restricted while the wind is powerful, limitless and indefinite. The speaker addresses the West Wind, not the East, North or South one as all the attention at the beginning of the XIX century was focused on America and its revolution, which symbolized freedom, power and new ideas.