From the early 19th century, Percy Bysshe Shelley is recognized as one of the most influential writers of the Romantic Period whose work is characterized by his use of imagery and symbolism. Such examples can be found in his poems such as Ode to the West Wind, Hymn to Intellectual Beauty, and Ozymandias. In Shelleys view, the poet is a dreamer, a visionary who uses these dreams and visions to persuade men to shake off the chains of the past, of custom, of selfishness, and to press onward to the vital task of constructing a world characterized by kindness, generosity, and love (Shairp, Shelly as a Lyric Poet 164) In “Ode to the West Wind,” Shelley attempts 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 the last phase of vegetation but also as the last phase of life in the individual, the imagination, civilization and religion. 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 inspiration 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. The arrangement and structure of the stanzas also serve purpose to emphasize Shelleys theme (Shelley, Complete Poems233). The stanzas are made up of interlinking three-line units with the rhyme scheme ababcbcdc, continuing this to the end of the stanza:O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumns being, (a)Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead (b)Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing, (a)Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red, (b)Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou, (c)Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed (b)The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low, (c)Each like a corpse within its grave, until (d)Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow (c)Her clarion oer the dreaming earth, and fill (d)(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air) (e)With living hues and odours plain and hill (d)Wild spirits, which art moving everywhere; (e)Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh, hear! (modified e) In this, Shelley grasps a vision and exaggerates it to the point that it should awaken thoughts about the future:Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearthAshes and sparks, my words among mankind!Be through my lips to unawakened earthThe trumpet of a prophecy! O, Wind,If Winter comes, can spring be far behind? The first two stanzas carry the type of movement, much like that of the wind, through their rhyme schemes. The third stanza discusses the slowing down of the movement, while the next resumes with the wind movement apparent in the first stanza. Finally, the poem culminates with the trumpet of a prophecy.In Shelleys Hymn to Intellectual Beauty, he symbolizes his comprehension of the power of human intellect through a number of stanzas in which he outlines the qualities of this power. In the first stanza, the concept of the unseen Power, or the mind, is introduced, and Shelley states his position on it.
Throughout the stanza, there is broad usage of reflective similes:As summer winds that creep from flower to flower; Like moonbeams that behind some piny mountain shower,Like hues and harmonies of evening,Like clouds in starlight widely spread,Like memory of music fled; These insubstantial elements of nature and memory are designed to illustrate the this power as something that is comparable to nature in beauty, but yet is somehow beyond human reach (Brewer, Hymn to988). Similes such as Like hues and harmonies of evening (Shelley 8) are used to elaborate on the fact that the power Shelley describes is balanced. The five similes in this stanza are all vague. The first four are all an intrinsic part of the preoccupation with nature says Brewer.
Through these similes Shelley constructs an image of the powers tremendous and forceful status (Swanicke, Poets: Interpreters of Their Age 170).In the second stanza, Shelley brings to attention the question of the power. In lines 14 and 15, he says the beauty shines upon / human thought and then poses the question to beauty in the next line; where art thou gone? He recognizes however a series of even more rhetorical questions in lines 1620. Simultaneously, he asks why humanity remains disinterested in deifying the human intellect, which he believes is the reason for our scope / For love and hate, despondency and hope. Naturally, the impact of nature is intense, which is shown by the ongoing figurative language being used: Ask why sunlight not for ever / Weaves rainbows oer yon mountain-river. This again shows how Shelley sees a celestial being as integral in nature, yet he is unhappy because humanity will not worship it.
Stanza four deals with two ideas, one being that death would have no hold over us if humanity were to worship the power, and the other with celebrating the intellectual power (Brewer 989). The stanza opens with concepts of Love, hope, and Self-esteem. Shelley proposes that, if the power was to stay firmly within his mankinds heart, then humanity would become immortal and omnipotent. Thus, implying that the power has to stay within people in order for death to become a dying flame. He concludes the stanza with Depart not as thy shadow came, / Depart notlest the grave should be, / Like life and fear, a dark reality, details which allude to the fact that the power has come into humanity so that people may become immortal.
The fifth stanza illustrates how Shelley worships intellectual beauty. Obviously, The change in emphasis from humankind to himself is made apparent. He describes how he spent his adolescent years searching for the power; and how he went through graveyards hoping to communicate with the dead in order to gain knowledge of the afterlife (Brewer 989). At one point he cries out to God to reveal himself, saying I called on poisonous names with which our youth is fed religion; / I was not heardI saw them the dead not. After receiving no response, he that the power he was searching for was within himself; hence, he shrieked, and clasped his hands in ecstasy. An example within the poem that relates to his discovery of human intellect as a thing to be worshipped.
The remaining stanzas conclude Shelleys impressions about the power and its influence, or lack of, in the later life. His personification of time, the phantoms of a thousand hours shows he believes in the omnipotence and surrounding nature of the power. Through the power he requests for the strength to overturn certain aspects of society that he feels are impeding freedom (Symons, Shelley 176).
The last stanza is the story of adulthood, When noon is past. In this stanza, Shelley makes it clear that adulthood is a time of apathy and passive behavior. He feels that after a young adulthood, where everything is questioned, middle age and eventually old age becomes a depressing situation. He concludes the poem by pleading to the Power to stay with him in adulthood and goes on to tell what the power can do for humanity (Brewer 990). In Shelleys Ozymandias, the title is used to convey the feeling that possessions do not equal immortality.
Through use of vivid imagery and irony, Shelley explains that no one lives forever, much like the possessions they behold. For example, he refers to the crumbled stone statue with only legs and head remaining, standing in the desert. The face is Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, / And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, / Tell that its sculptor well those passions read (4-6). He then goes on to say that on the pedestal these words appear: / My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: / Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair! (9-11), meaning that some time ago, a statue of a great man stood here, but yet over the years the magnificent statue has been reduced to rubble. The poem illustrates to us that possessions do not last forever by comparing that to the king (Symons, Shelley 178). The king believed his kingdom would remain under his statues proud watch forever, but instead it wasted away in the dessert. When the speaker says Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair! (11), he means that despite all the power one may acquire in the course of their life, material possessions do not last forever.
In the end, the Kings works are nothing, and the lines inscribed upon his statue are a sermon for those who read it (Swanicke, Poets: Interpreters of Their Age 171). Percy Bysshe Shelley being a prominent romantic poet, is easily recognized as an influential writer whose work is distinguished by the use of vivid imagery and symbolism in his poems. Dying before reaching age thirty, he was never able to see his idealistic prophecy for humanity be fulfilled. Regardless, Percy Bysshe Shelleys literary work has had a unparalleled affect on society, and his concepts and ideas are still in circulation today, perhaps proving Mrs.
Shelleys statement that very few knew his worth while he lived (Shelley, Complete poems282).