In "Ode to the West Wind", the poet wishes to be liberated of life's burdens. How does he do so?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Part VI, the speaker, who could be the poet, says,

Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!

He has already wondered what it would be like to be a "dead leaf" borne by the wind and a "swift cloud" that could fly with it. He seems to wish to be raised aloft, away from the "thorns" that prick him and bring him pain; he wishes to be objects that would take him high up and away from the pain of the earth. In this way, he wishes to be liberated from his life's burdens. He goes on to tell the wind, in Part V,

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like wither'd leaves to quicken a new birth!

Thus, the speaker seems to feel that he has already perished in some way and that he hopes to have his dead parts carried away by the wind so as to allow him a new start, a rebirth. Finally, he hopes that the wind will,

[...] by the incantation of this verse,
Scatter, as from an unextinguish'd hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!

In other words, he hopes that the wind will blow his verses among all the people of the earth. He calls his words ashes and sparks: the leavings of death and the beginnings of life.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There could be much made to answer this question. I think that a possible avenue could be to explore how Shelley wishes to conceive of his own immortality as a poet.  He places a great deal of emphasis in the hope that his words will be remembered as something as permanent as nature and as the expression of the natural self.  I believe that he is able to feel liberated of the burden of consciousness in placing so much importance in this vision of permanence that he sees as transcendent.  If we examine the text, I think an argument can be made that he believes that if he achieves a certain standard in his own writing and if his words are remembered, this can allow him the chance to be free of the burden of living, entering a realm where only poets dare to tread.

kc4u | Student

In stanza 4 of the poem, Shelley regrets that while the dead leaves on earth, the black clouds in the sky, and the panting waves of the Atlantic receive the ennobling thrust of the mighty wind, he still lies low heavily burdened with the load of life unable to get in touch with the wind.

The poet recalls how strong and free he was in his boyhood when he could run with the wind to outspeed it in the sky.He was then only less mighty than the 'uncontrollable' wind. Now the huge burden of existence has tied him to the ground, like Prometheus in chains in Greek mythology.

'I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!'--thus the poet exclaims in anguish bordering on self-pity. It is the revitalizing thrust of the West Wind that alone can liberate the poet from the bondage.

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Ode to the West Wind

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