What is the poet's role according to "Ode to the West Wind"?

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In “Ode to the West Wind,” the poet aims to present the power of nature and the power of poetry, both of which bring destruction and life to the world.

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In “Ode to the West Wind,” Percy Bysshe Shelley says that the role of the poet is to serve nature and convey its messages. Using apostrophe and personification, he speaks directly to the wind. Shelley states his desire both to share the wind’s power or spirit and to act as an instrument—a lyre—that the wind can play.

Overall, Shelley proposes an intimate connection between nature and creativity, stressing the link between intense emotion and physical suffering. His fervent devotion to nature encompasses its drastic and brutal components, such as the strength of the autumnal wind to which he devotes most of the poem. In the last section, he connects nature’s power to destroy and to regenerate with his mission.

At the poem’s end, Shelley implores the wind to help him fulfill his poetic duty of sharing his ideas with others, as well as helping his new works be born.

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe

Like wither'd leaves to quicken a new birth!

He offers to use his lips to communicate the intentions of the wind:

Be through my lips to unawakened earth

The trumpet of a prophecy!

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What is the poet's aim in “Ode to the West Wind”?

In “Ode to the West Wind,” Percy Bysshe Shelley presents the power of nature, which brings both destruction and new life, at the same time as he presents the power of poetry, which does the same.

Nature is symbolized by the West Wind. This is a strong wind that can wake up the seas and blow winter cold across the land. It brings storms and lightning, a fierce rage that seems to overwhelm the world. It seems to be a destroyer. Yet at the same time, this powerful wind is a preserver. It scatters the “winged seeds” that they may be prepared for the coming of spring, when they will rise as “sweet buds” with “living hues and odours.” The power of nature not only wrecks havoc; it also preserves and encourages growth and new life. Indeed, nature is wild and untamed, but it does exactly what it is supposed to do.

In the second half of the poem, the poet blends the power of poetry with the power of nature. He wants his words to have the same effect as the West Wind, to be wild and free and spread throughout the world, carrying his ideas. These ideas are both seemingly destructive, especially to untruth, and filled with life and potential. They spread sparks throughout humanity, awakening them to “mighty harmonies” and tones both sweet and sad. Indeed, the poet wants to be a lyre played by the West Wind and a “trumpet of prophecy” that imitates the power of the wind through his words.

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