“Ode to the West Wind” by Percy Bysshe Shelley is widely known due to the theme of regeneration portrayed in this poem. Shelley is a great romantic poet and idealist who believed in the happy future of mankind in which love, justice, and charity would prevail. He is also a revolutionary poet as he believed in social changes and the moral reformation of mankind.
The Regeneration: Destroyer of the Old and Preserver of the New
“Ode to the West Wind” is a great poem that embodies some of his main ideas about man’s moral progress through the spirit of change from the old to the newer order. The west wind symbolizes destruction and preservation as it destroys the old leaves and preserves the new seeds. To Shelley’s mind, it appears as the destroyer of the old order and the preserver of the new.
The west wind, therefore, becomes a symbol of change which destroys but at the same time creates. The poem is also a symbol of the reflective personality of the poet himself. As a boy, Shelley possessed the same impetuous quality as the wind itself; he is tameless, swift, uncontrolled, and free. The west wind is regarded as a symbol that will bring about the golden age of mankind.
The Sense of Regeneration in P. B. Shelley
P. B. Shelley was a revolutionary poet and he was dissatisfied with the existing order of things. He hated political tyranny and orthodox Christianity. He also hated wickedness, corruption, and evil which made human life very miserable and unhappy. He wanted to liberate mankind from the chain of political, religious, and intellectual slavery.
This attitude is clearly reflected in the poem. The west wind is depicted as a symbol of those forces which will sweep away the old order of life, old institutions, and old. In the last stage, the west wind symbolizes the forces that will become perfect and when beauty and love will govern the universe. Shelley expresses the hope that his dead thoughts will quicken a new birth and will, therefore, bring about a revolutionary change in the social, political, and religious structure of human society.
P. B. Shelley as a Personification of the West Wind
Shelley personifies the west wind and gives it an independent status. The forces of nature are so powerful and the poet imagines that they become real creating the feeling of wonder. In this poem, Shelley describes natural phenomena in terms of human life. The poem is majestic because of its universal character but it also strikes a personal note. The fourth stanza is personal and autobiographical and the poet finds an affinity between himself and the west wind. He appeals to the west wind to come in order to help and lift him like a leaf. He says,
“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 bowned
One too like thee: tameless and swift and proud”
This stanza shows the poet’s awareness of the misery and suffering of human life. He wishes that he should be lifted like a leaf to scatter his thoughts about liberty and freedom for the welfare of mankind.
In the fifth stanza, the poet becomes one with the west wind and he appeals to it to scatter his revolutionary ideas which will bring a new period in human history. Shelley believed in the moral regeneration of mankind and it is through this moral revolution that a new society can be established where a man can live in peace and happiness.
“If winter comes can spring be far behind?”
Shelley makes a prophecy about the coming of the golden age for mankind in the concluding line of the poem, when he says, “If winter comes can spring be far behind?” In the last stanza of the poem, we find a clear expression of Shelley’s idealism, his belief in the perfectibility of human nature, and his belief in the golden age of mankind.
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