In the poem "Ode to the West Wind", Shelley's idealism gets reflected in the poem. How?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shelley's vision of his own success and glory as an artist can reflect a sense of idealism.  The transformative power of nature is what inspires Shelley to see his own capacity for greatness as an artist.  He seeks to create art on the level as it would be as fundamental to human lives as nature is.  This involves a sense of idealism regarding his own capacity for creation, and Shelley invokes images that bring this idea to full realization. For example, the carrying of "the leaves" and "dead thoughts" are what he wishes that the West Wind carries with it as far as possible to maximize his impact and his ability as an artist.  The idea that Shelley will be appreciated over time in immortality is where Shelley's optimism comes to full fruition.

coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the poem 'Ode to the West Wind' by Percy Bysshe Shelley, the poet idealises the wind in the beginning of the poem, talking about the power of the wind and it's other attributes. He is referring to a little more than a weather definiiton of the wind here. Shelley also draws on the ideals presented in classical literature of the wind representing spiritual ideas such as the way in which it can be inspiring to the imagination. As in Emily Bronte's wind poem also, he harks back to the tradition of Greece and Rome where it also represents the soul and the spirit. later in the poem, the poet is not so fresh and idealistic, having been tempered by Time, Sorrow and the hurdles of life.

lit24 | Student

Shelley's idealism is reflected especially in the 4th and 5th cantos of his "Ode to the West Wind."

Canto 4 is an earnest plea by Shelley to the west wind to infuse him with its raw power and liberate him from the bout of depression which has temporarily overwhelmed him - most probably caused by the death of his son William in 1819. Shelley tells the west wind that when he was a boy he was also as "uncontrollable" as the west wind is now, and he would have easily matched the west wind in its speed. But now, he is depressed and weighed down by the cares and anxieties of life and prays to the west wind to liberate him. He pleads with the west wind that just like how it lifts up the leaves on the earth and the clouds on the sky and the waves on the sea it should free him also from the "thorns of life" on which he has fallen.

In Canto 5, Shelley the poet directly and explicitly asks the west wind to make him an instrument and tool of political and moral change: "make me thy lyre" and "drive my dead thoughts over the universe." The poem ends optimistically with Shelley echoing the popular saying "if Winter comes can Spring be far behind?"

Read the study guide:
Ode to the West Wind

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