How is Romanticism represented through ''Ode to the West Wind''?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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First and foremost, this poem, with its powerful descriptions of the West Wind and its striking evocation of its strength and power, presents a very important concept that is found in Romanticism: the sublime. This word refers to the way that nature in its unbridled majesty highlighted man's position in the world and identified the true frailty and weakness of humanity when compared with the might of nature. Note how this is achieved through the following description of the West Wind. At night, the sky is described as a "vast sepulchre" which is:

Vaulted with all thy congregated might

Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere

Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: O hear!

The power of the wind and its potential for destruction is a classic example of the sublime in Romanticism, which is meant to provoke introspection and philosophical reflection on man's true position in the world.

Another important aspect of this poem is the way that Romanticism is associated with revolution, a new way of thinking that challenges previous models of thought and demands to be heard. This is captured through the final stanza where the speaker asks the wind to "Scatter... my words among mankind" so that they might be a "trumpet of prophecy." This identifies the way that Romanticism was a very different system of philosophical thought from anything that had come before it, and as a result it was seen as being revolutionary. Many Romantics for example saw the French Revolution as being a good thing initially, because of the way that it challenged the old corrupted order and hoped to bring in a new, more equitable way of life. This sense of revolution is clear in this poem.

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