Discussion Topic

Analysis of the concluding lines and stanzas in "Ode to the West Wind"

Summary:

The concluding lines and stanzas of "Ode to the West Wind" reflect the poet's yearning for renewal and transformation. Shelley implores the wind to infuse him with its power, hoping to spread his ideas and inspire change. The poem ends with a hopeful note, suggesting that even as winter comes, it is followed by the promise of spring and rebirth.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the meaning of the final line in "Ode to the West Wind"?

In the final line of the poem, the speaker asks, "O Wind, / If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?" Generally, winter is the season of the year associated with death, while spring, which follows winter, is associated with life. In winter, everything in nature seems to die with the cold, but in spring, the flowers and grasses and trees appear to experience a rebirth of sorts when the sun grows warmer. The speaker seems to conceive of the West Wind as an agent of change, something that acts as both a "destroyer and preserver" as it ushers in both seasons: the one that kills and the one that brings new life. It is "moving everywhere," and it is "uncontrollable" and "tameless."

In driving away his "dead thoughts," like dead leaves, the speaker seems to believe that the West Wind could "quicken a new birth." In other words, the wind could help him to find new inspiration, a new kind of life by ushering in the new season of spring, literally, but also a new season for the speaker, a new era of creativity and increased imagination. The final line gives voice to the speaker's optimism for the future, that the period of creative decline in which he now finds himself will inevitably be followed by a period of inspiration and creative growth, just as spring inevitably follows winter.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Explain the last two lines of "Ode to the West Wind".

"The trumpet of a prophecy!  O, Wind/

If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"

The closing lines of Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind" highlights several themes of Romanticism as well.  One explanation behind the last two lines is that it speaks of hope and optimism.  Shelley seems to be saying that the wind carries with it the belief that something better lies ahead.  For example, if one feels the wind in winter, one knows that spring is nearby.  Shelley is saying that the movement of the wind and its freedom bring with it a spirit of limitless freedom.  There is a sense of unlimited potential with this wind, and the "trumpet" that sounds is the sound that indicates while things might be difficult or bad, there is something else that might lie ahead which can be hopeful and optimistic.

When you read these two lines, remember that the first line sets up the second line.  It is this closing line that becomes very powerful for Shelley.  Some say that he wrote these lines in the wake of the death of his son, while others say he wrote to expres his hopeful vision for political revolutions.  If we take both ideas at face value, we see that the explanation of meaning for both of these lines is one of hope and progress, the idea that change can happen despite what might be in front of us.  We can change what is to what can be when we know that "spring" cannot be far behind.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I need an explanation of the 2nd and last sections of "Ode to the West Wind"

In the second section, here is a breakdown of each stanza:

1.  Here he declares that the wind breaks the clouds up "like earth's decaying leaves" that are shaken from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean"; in other words, the wind can break apart the clouds so that the scatter about just like leaves from trees in the wind do.  The leaves are the clouds, the trees heaven and the ocean.

2.  He compares rain and lightning to angels, and says the wind spreads them both through the sky "like the bright hair uplifted from the head."  So, the rain and lighting (angels) are spread across the sky like someone's hair that is lifted up and splayed in the wind.

3-5.  He compares the wind to a crazy, intense, wild-woman (Maenad) coming to indicate a coming storm.  He calls it an omen of a funeral (dirge) for the dying year, and that the wind will be the roof of a tomb yielding "black rain, and fire, and hail".  These stanzas describe the wind storming angrily, and a figure bringing death.

Last Section:

1-2.  He wants the wind to make him its voice; he wants to be able to be the wind, to know it and feel what it is.

3-4.  He wants the wind to drive out all of his dead thoughts, and spread his words around the world.

5.  He wants the wind's message to be heard through his lips, and calls it a prophecy hailing the coming of spring.

Sorry for the briefness of that last section; I ran out of space.  I hope that helps!

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How does the poet conclude the final stanzas of parts 1, 2, and 3 in Ode to the West Wind?

In the first stanza, the speaker personifies the west wind as the "breath of Autumn's being," and then proceeds to describe the power of the wind to scatter the autumn leaves. At the end of the stanza, the speaker addresses the west wind directly, as "Wild Spirit ... Destroyer and preserver." The way in which the speaker addresses the wind suggests that, from his perspective, the wind is omnipotent and awe-inspiring, like a god. In the final words of the stanza, the speaker implores the wind to "hear, oh hear!" This suggests that the speaker wants to ask something of the wind. The exclamation mark at the end implies that the speaker is desperate to be heard.

In the second stanza, the speaker continues to eulogize about the power of the wind. He says that the wind has the power to scatter "Loose clouds," and to precipitate "rain and lightning." Later in the stanza, the speaker also describes the wind as a "dirge / Of the dying year," meaning that the sound of the wind seems like a lament for the year that is about to end. At the end of the stanza, the speaker again emphasizes the wind's power when he says that it has the power to cause storms and bring "Black rain, and fire, and hail." The imagery here is rather apocalyptic, emphasizing the power of the wind. As at the end of the first stanza, the speaker also, at the end of the second, addresses the wind directly and implores it to "hear!"

The third stanza follows much the same pattern as the first and second stanzas. The speaker pays homage to the power of the west wind, which, he says, "waken(s) from his summer dreams / The blue Mediterranean." At the end of the stanza, the speaker says that the west wind's voice makes the "sapless foliage of the ocean ... grow gray with fear, / And tremble and despoil themselves." This description represents a climactic escalation of the wind's power through the first three stanzas of the poem. Finally, at the very end of the stanza, the speaker once again implores the wind to, "oh hear!"

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on