Show the skill and variety of Shelley's lyrical genius with reference to 'Ode to the West Wind' and 'To a Skylark'. 

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

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Shelley's lyrical genius is clear through an examination of these two poems. The way that he combines meter, rhyme and diction to create incredibly powerful poems that are as memorable as they are profound is one of the principle reasons why his works are still studied and praised today, so many years after his unfortunate and premature demise. Note, for example, in the final section of "Ode to the West Wind," how Shelley makes a link between the activity of this fearsome West Wind and his own hopes of what his work as a poet will achieve:

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe,
Like wither'd leaves, to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,

Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!

The comparison of Shelley's poetry, described as "dead thoughts," to "wither'd leaves" allows the analogy to be made of the way in which the West Wind blows seeds around the world which "quicken a new birth," just as Shelley hopes that the dispersal of his own words and ideas will help move the world towards embracing his revolutionary ideals. He uses another analogy in the way that the wind blows ashes and sparks to implore the West Wind to "scatter... my words among mankind," in the hope that some of this sparks will light fires where they land. Such powerful images make it clear the skill of Shelley's verse.

In the same way, in "To a Skylark," note the lovely and skilled image that opens this poem:

Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!
                Bird thou never wert,
         That from Heaven, or near it,
                Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.
 
The alliteration with the repetition of "p" sounds and the way that "heart" is made to rhyme with "art" links the song of the skylark to the very core, spontaneous inspiration that comes from the heart. The image of the bird pouring its very self into its music, its "unpremeditated art" is one that forces the reader to see the bird in a different way and to view it almost as some kind of genius because of the way that it is able to spontaneously produce such wonderful music without rehearsal or practice. Such images again testify to Shelley's great skill with words and his talent as a poet. 
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