Ans. The poem, Ode to the West Wind represents some important characteristics of Shelley’s poetry. The west wind is the symbol of revolution with its destructive aspects and creative principle. He implores the west wind to inspire him with its tameless spirit of that he can destroy the old and the worn-out and-create a new world based on equality, fraternity and liberty. Shelley’s revolutionary idealism is best illustrated in the poem.
The poem sounds two important notes of Shelley’s poetry—his personal despondency and his prophetic vision. He “falls upon the thorns of life, he bleeds.” He prays to the west wind to lift him as a leaf, a cloud and a wave. But his faltering accents become trumpet tones when he utters the woes of man instead of his own sorrows. The tired child becomes a prophet and sings a mighty song to quicken the sleeping world to a new birth—“O wind ! if Winter comes, can Spring be far behind.”
Shelley is most vitally with romantic idealism. He gives himself up to the swelling waves of the wind and mingles his own voice with the mighty harmonies of the west wind. He makes a magnificent union of himself with nature and then passes equally to great self-description. He thus mingles Nature and himself together. Shelley's romanticism is best expressed in his fervent idealism and in his complete absorption into the spirit of Nature.
Shelley is a lyric poet per excellence. In Ode to the West Wind we find a harmony that swells like the surge of the mighty west wind. It is an inspired lyric glowing with the fire of emotion. In it, we see the marriage of the most exquisite words to the most exquisite harmonies. Its vigorous lines capture the rush and swell of the wind. Always working with a white heat of imagination, Shelley pours images, metaphors and similes drawing as much from the world of imagination as from the real world: “The leaves dead are driven like ghosts from an enchanter fleeting,” the west wind “is the dirge of the dying year,” “the breath of Autumn’s being.” These images testify to Shelley's love of the world of the abstract and the intangible.
The poem testifies to Shelley’s myth-making power. Shelley has the simplicity and wonder of a primitive man. With the instinctive truths of a fervid imagination, he creates myths and relations so fitting that he is said to have imported “Hellenic thought in English”. His myth-making power is evident when he personifies the west wind as destroyer and preserver, and describes how the blue Mediterranean is lulled by the coil of its crystalline streams.
The poem is characterised by solemn grandeur and stately music. The majestic march of music and rhythm echo the rush and movement of the wind. Shelley, as Swinburne has said, “is the perfect singing god.” He has brought new music in English poetry. It is the music of the waves and the winds and the heavenly music of the planets that he has caught and reproduced with great skill. The Ode to the West Wind now rings like wild wails from the forest, now like the sighs on the fitful breeze from the river.