How is "Ode to the West Wind" a Romantic poem?

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"Ode to the West Wind" is a Romantic poem in that it emphasizes the experiences and feelings of an individual speaker and focuses on nature as a transformative power, something that has the ability to alter both the natural world and the speaker himself.

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Some characteristics of Romantic poetry include a focus on the personal experiences of the individual, an emphasis on emotion and creativity, and a belief in the transformative power of nature. Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind" exemplifies all three.

The speaker recalls the "summer dreams" of his youth and seems, now, to feel that he is in or approaching his own personal autumn and winter. He discusses his own individual experiences, hoping that the wind will be able to blow again and assist him to feel, once again, more vital and lively than he does now.

Ultimately, he asks the wind, "If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?" This seems like a hopeful question, betraying the speaker's optimism that though death or the decline of one's inspiration and creativity is surely inevitable, just as inevitable is the promise of rebirth in nature or the return of inspiration and creativity.

The speaker refers to the West Wind as a "destroyer and preserver," and he describes it as the "breath of Autumn's being" that drives the dead leaves away so that new growth can occur. He ascribes tremendous power to this element of nature, believing that it can serve as an agent of change in both the natural world as well as in his own life.

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How is Romanticism represented through ''Ode to the West Wind''?

First and foremost, this poem, with its powerful descriptions of the West Wind and its striking evocation of its strength and power, presents a very important concept that is found in Romanticism: the sublime. This word refers to the way that nature in its unbridled majesty highlighted man's position in the world and identified the true frailty and weakness of humanity when compared with the might of nature. Note how this is achieved through the following description of the West Wind. At night, the sky is described as a "vast sepulchre" which is:

Vaulted with all thy congregated might

Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere

Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: O hear!

The power of the wind and its potential for destruction is a classic example of the sublime in Romanticism, which is meant to provoke introspection and philosophical reflection on man's true position in the world.

Another important aspect of this poem is the way that Romanticism is associated with revolution, a new way of thinking that challenges previous models of thought and demands to be heard. This is captured through the final stanza where the speaker asks the wind to "Scatter... my words among mankind" so that they might be a "trumpet of prophecy." This identifies the way that Romanticism was a very different system of philosophical thought from anything that had come before it, and as a result it was seen as being revolutionary. Many Romantics for example saw the French Revolution as being a good thing initially, because of the way that it challenged the old corrupted order and hoped to bring in a new, more equitable way of life. This sense of revolution is clear in this poem.

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