In "Ode to the West Wind" by Percy Bysshe Shelley, how does this poem contrast with the neoclassical? What is at the heart of the poem?

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Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Concerning your question about Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind," here's a short summary of the poem from the enotes Study Guide on it:

Like many of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poems, “Ode to the West Wind” was inspired by a natural phenomenon, an autumn storm that prompted the poet to contemplate the links between the outer world of nature and the realm of the intellect. In five stanzas directly addressed to the powerful wind that Shelley paradoxically calls both “destroyer” and “preserver” (line 14), the poet explores the impact of the regenerative process that he sees occurring in the world around him and compares it to the impact of his own poetry, which he believes can have similar influence in regenerating mankind.

At the heart of the poem is the transcendent connection of the West Wind to the poet's intellect.  The wind brings about regeneration in the natural world, and the speaker hopes his poetry can do the same in the human world. 

The neoclassical period was centered around reason.  This poem centers on the transcendent, that which is beyond reason, that which is intuitive.  The poet seeks the sublime, awe-inspiring nature, and a mental and spiritual connection to it.  The neoclassicists did not view nature in this way. 

The neoclassical emphasis is on government, social conventions, religious schisms.  Shelley is interested in the personal.   

Read the study guide:
Ode to the West Wind

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