Paraphrase the image in line 55 of "Ode to the West Wind" representing the pains of aging.

Expert Answers

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

Here is what I think Percy Bysshe Shelley is saying in lines 55 and 56 of "Ode to the West Wind":

"Although I was once in my youth--and even now in my spirit continue to be--wild and forceful with my philosophies, the personal sorrows that have piled upon me with each passing year are acting like a ball and chain, weighing down my motivation and enthusiasm and limiting my ability to be the effective communicator of world-changing ideas that I long to be."

I don't believe that the phrase "a heavy weight of hours" refers to the pains of aging. Shelley was only 27 when he wrote this poem, and although it is possible he could have been assuming a persona and not writing in his own voice, what we know about Shelley suggests that the poem reflects his personal thoughts and desires. Taking biographical information about Shelley into account, we can easily see that the "weight" he refers to is a weight of grief. Within the few years prior to 1819 when this poem was penned, Shelley had suffered several personal tragedies, including the death by suicide of his estranged wife, Harriet; the loss of custody of his two children from that marriage; the death of his first child by Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin; and the death of two subsequent children born to Mary after they married. Those last two deaths occurred within a year of his writing this poem. Certainly Shelley still longed for his philosophies to be borne around the world as this poem describes, but his sorrow and grief were an anchor or ball and chain that tied him down, interfering with the message he wanted to impart to his fellow travelers on this globe.

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
Approved by eNotes Editorial