What is the meaning of these lines from "Ode to the West Wind": "Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud! I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!"?

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I see these lines as reflecting the basic tension between Shelley's desire for transcendence, yet being bound with a sense of presence.  One of the driving forces of Shelley's poem is the obsession for poetic immortality.  Shelley does not have make any apologies for wanting to be considered one of the greats and become a member of the pantheon of great poets.  The challenge he faces is that he does not know if this is going to happen in his lifetime or if this is something he will experience.  Hence, he is trapped between his hopes and his present.  This might be where we get the idea of wishing to be lifted, but falling "upon the thorns of life."  Another implication from this couplet could be the idea of seeking to overcome human banality.  There is a dichotomy revealed in the lines which reflects much of human nature.  There is an experience of lightness and weight revealed.  In the first line, we see the idea of striving for lightness, "lift me as a wave," and a belief that one can transcend what they are for another consciousness.  This is undercut with the reality of bleeding upon "the thorns of life."  In an odd way, perhaps both are part of what it means to be human.  On one hand, we seek and strive to be "light," but we are creatures of weight and gravity is not something that can be avoided in our consciousnesses.  In reading the lines again, I am reminded of Carlos Fuentes' points made about Don Quixote and Sancho in "The Buried Mirror."  Both character represent us and what it means for us to be human.  Quixote is that dreamer in us who strives for justice and equality.  He would be the desire to be lifted "as a wave."  His counterpart, Sancho, is more concerned with the mundane realities that bind him to consciousness and this world.  He is the reality that seeks a good meal or a good place to sleep.  Shelley is obviously voicing his desire for a Quixote vision of reality in making Sancho cause him to "fall upon the thorns of life," yet might understand that while we wish to be Quixotes, we are both.  In such a realization, we "bleed" like Shelley does.

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