Great Seasonal Poems, Part One: Ode to the West Wind, by Percy Bysshe Shelley

California residents may not be a big fan of the west wind right now, but never fear, spring is not far behind.

Ode to the West Wind

BY PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY

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, oh 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 aëry 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: oh hear! 

III 

Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams 

The blue Mediterranean, where he lay, 

Lull’d by the coil of his crystalline 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 gray with fear, 

And tremble and despoil themselves: oh 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 seem’d 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 chain’d and bow’d 

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 wither’d leaves to quicken a new birth! 

And, by the incantation of this verse, 

Scatter, as from an unextinguish’d hearth 

Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind! 

Be through my lips to unawaken’d earth 

The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind, 

If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

Thanks again to the Poetry Foundation.

I repeated the famous last line and a half of this poem on Sunday, while cooking some beef stew (with Piedmontese beef) in our fire pit. The fire pit was built by my brother-in-law from an old propane tank, and the west wind blew smoke in my face one time too many. The same BIL has a herd of these fancy Italian bovines, and gave us a freezer full of meat for Christmas. Ashes and sparks, indeed.

Author: southernfusionfood

Writer, Woodworker, and Happy Eater

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