How does Percy Shelley depict the theme or concept of re-generation in his poem "Ode to the West Wind"?

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his poem “Ode to the West Wind,” Percy Bysshe Shelley presents the theme of regeneration in a number of ways, including the following:

  • In lines 8-12, the speaker implies that the seeds buried during the fall give birth to new life in the spring.  These lines foreshadow the final lines of the poem.
  • In lines 29-32, the speaker suggests that the autumn winds awaken or agitate the waters of the Mediterranean Sea, which had been calm during the summer.
  • In lines 33-36, the speaker alludes to “old palaces and towers” that now appear

All overgrown with azure moss and flowers

So sweet, the sense faints picturing them!

The reference to moss, flowers, and beautiful smells suggests a kind of regeneration, a bursting forth of life and vitality.

  • In lines 47-51, the speaker imagines a kind of regeneration-as-rejuvenation – a return to the power and vitality of his boyhood.
  • In line 53, the speaker explicitly calls upon the west wind to help regenerate his spirit:

Oh! lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!

  • In line 57 the speaker again asks the wind to help regenerate him by infusing him with poetic power:

Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is . . .

  • In lines 61-64, the speaker calls upon the wind to inhabit him and become one with him, so that the speaker will feel reborn:

Be thou, Spirit fierce,

My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!


Drive my dead thoughts over the universe

Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!

  • In the poem’s final lines, the speaker, having been awakened and regenerated himself, hopes to become a means of awakening and regenerating all the earth and all mankind:

Be through my lips to unawakened Earth


The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,

If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

Throughout the poem, then, Shelley constantly emphasizes the theme of regeneration. The intended effect of the poem, surely, was to leave the reader with a sense of having been regenerated by reading this work.


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Ode to the West Wind

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