Try to imagine a man who really believes in free love. Let’s imagine someone who’s so distant from accepting the bourgeois moral and social rules to be kicked off from schools and academies.
He’s so far away from the conventional idea of possession and goods, that he shares a house and wife with a friend. Then he falls in love with the wife of another friend and elopes with her.
He lives as a vegan, in full respect of nature and animals. He’s so overwhelmed by any kind of social rule that he lives shipping and travelling from place to place in the world. So that he finally dies (very young, for sure) on a ship he had made for himself (clearly by a non – expert engineer).
Let’s not place a merit or demerit judgment on him , let’s just imagine such a kind of person.
You would assume that he’s probably "too modern" for our days. So… maybe he was definitely too modern for the Europe of 1800. History of literature and poetry give us a lot of examples of eccentricity, but the case of Percy Bysshe Shelley is the one who can collect all possible kind of social anticonformism.
But maybe this was the nutrition of his hyper sensitivity who led him to write poems among the most moving in the history. His main poems were addressed not just to people (men or women he loved) but also to nature elements, showing his attitude to fall deeply in love with everything surrounding him.
Ode to the West wind, expresses much of his poetical history. The ode was written 1819 near Florence, Italy. It was then published as part of the Prometheus Unbound, A Lyrical Drama in Four Acts.
It is made up of five cantos.
The West Wind is the wind of Autumn. It is wild, spontaneous, free and unconsciously destructive (just like him?). Though a series of "negative" words and adjectives are found in the first stanza, it is impossible to read it in a negative way. First of all, because we’re reading an ode. Secondly, because this wild strength carries dead leaves away, it an advocate of "revolution" and it prepares the change brought by the wind of spring.
The second canto tells about the "travels" of the wind and the lands it has crossed. And, most of all, of the fear and respect it has found with its majesty. As if all the world, despite of being afraid of him, recognizes the important of a destructive and cold wind in order to have a (social and political) change.
In the last two cantos, he wishes to be blown away with the wind, he prays to be taken by him. Because it is in that strength and distruction that he can see the hope of a coming spring.
It is an Ode to the power and important of distruction. Basic element of his short though intense life.
ODE TO THE WEST WIND
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: O Thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed
The wingèd 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!
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 Mænad, 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!
Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams
The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,
Lulled by the coil of his chrystalline streams,
Beside a pumice isle in Baiæ’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!
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.
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 wither’d 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?