Ode to the West Wind

Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Ode to the West Wind” (in Reiman and Powers edn.)

 

I

 

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,

Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead

Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

 

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,

Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O Thou,

Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

 

The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,

Each like a corpse within its grave, until

Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow

 

Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill

(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)

With living hues and odours plain and hill:

 

Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;

Destroyer and Preserver; hear, O hear!

 

II

 

Thou on whose stream, ‘mid the steep sky’s commotion,

Loose clouds like Earth’s decaying leaves are shed,

Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean,

 

Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread

On the blue surface of thine aery surge,

Like the bright hair uplifted from the head

 

Of some fierce Maenad, even from the dim verge

Of the horizon to the zenith’s height,

The locks of the approaching storm. Thou Dirge

 

Of the dying year, to which this closing night

Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre,

Vaulted with all thy congregated might

 

Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere

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

 

III

 

Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams

The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,

Lulled by the coil of his chrystalline streams,

 

Beside a pumice isle in Baiae’s bay,

And saw in sleep old palaces and towers

Quivering within the wave’s intenser day,

 

All overgrown with azure moss and flowers

So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou

For whose path the Atlantic’s level powers

 

Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below

The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear

The sapless foliage of the ocean, know

 

Thy voice, and suddenly grow grey with fear,

And tremble and despoil themselves: O hear!

 

IV

 

If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;

If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;

A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share

 

The impulse of thy strength, only less free

Than thou, O Uncontrollable! If even

I were as in my boyhood, and could be

 

The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven,

As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed

Scarce seemed a vision; I would ne’er have striven

 

As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.

Oh! lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!

I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!

 

A heavy weight of hours has chained and bowed

One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud.

 

V

 

Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:

What if my leaves are falling like its own!

The tumult of thy mighty harmonies

 

Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,

Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,

My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!

 

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe

Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!

And, by the incantation of this verse,

 

Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth

Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!

Be through my lips to unawakened Earth

 

The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,

If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?