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Ode to the West Wind - (Canto 2 & 3)

Ode to West Wind

(Canto – II & III)

 - Percy Bysshe Shelley

Ode to the West Wind - (Canto 2)

Ode to the West Wind

    (Ode to the West Wind) - Canto 2

    (Ode to West Wind: Canto - II) Stanza 1

    “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,”

    Again, the speaker addresses the wind as a person, calling it the one who will “loose clouds” and shake the leaves of the “boughs of Heaven and Ocean”. This reads almost as a Psalm, as if the speaker is praising the wind for its power.

    (Ode to West Wind: Canto - II) Stanza 2

    “Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread

    On the blue surface of thine airy surge,

    Like the bright hair uplifted from the head” 

    Again, the speaker refers to the wind as a spiritual being more powerful than angels, for the angels “of rain and lightning” are described as being “spread on the blue surface” of the wind. He then describes these angels as being “like the bright hair” on the head of an even greater being.

    (Ode to West Wind: Canto - II) Stanza 3

    “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” 

    In this stanza of Ode to the West Wind, the speaker compares the wind to a “fierce Maenad” or the spiritual being that used to be found around the Greek God, Dionysus. Remember, this is the being that was also described as having hair like angels. Thus, the wind is described as a being like a god, with angels for hair. These angels of rain and lightning reveal that a storm is on the way.

    (Ode to West Wind: Canto - II) Stanza 4

    “Of the dying year, to which this closing night

    Will be the dome of a vast sepulcher

    Vaulted with all thy congregated might”

    The speaker then explains that the storm approaching is the impending doom of the dying year. The use of ‘sepulcher’ is interesting too, since this is refers to a small room/monument, in which a person is buried in, typically Christian origin. To refer to something like this could suggest that Shelley wants to trap and contain all of the power of nature inside the tomb, for it to ‘burst’ open in stanza 5. As well as this, a sepulcher is an isolating way of being buried, which could indicate Shelley wants to move away from all his miseries and be finally at one with nature.

    (Ode to West Wind: Canto - II) Stanza 5

    “Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere

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

    The speaker then describes the wind as the bringer of death. He has already described it as the Destroyer. Here, he describes it as one who brings “black rain and fire and hail.” Then, to end this Canto, the speaker again appeals to the wind, begging that it would hear him.

    Ode to the West Wind - (Canto 3)

    (Ode to the West Wind) Canto 3

    (Ode to West Wind: Canto - III) Stanza 1

    “Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams

    The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,

    Lulled by the coil of his crystalline streams,”

    To begin this Canto, the speaker describes the wind as having woken up the Mediterranean sea from a whole summer of peaceful rest. The sea, here, is also personified.

    (Ode to West Wind: Canto - III) Stanza 2

    “Beside a pumice isle in Baiae’s bay,

    And saw in sleep old palaces and towers

    Quivering within the wave’s intenser day,”

    With this stanza of Ode to the West Wind, the speaker simply implies that the sea was dreaming of the old days of palaces and towers, and that he was “quivering” at the memory of an “intenser day”.

    (Ode to West Wind: Canto - III) Stanza 3

    “All overgrown with azure moss and flowers

    So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou

    For whose path the Atlantic’s level powers” 

    The speaker continues to describe the sea’s dreams as being of slower days, when everything was overgrown with blue “moss and flowers”. Then, he hints that something is about to change when he mentions to Atlantic’s “powers”. 

    (Ode to West Wind: Canto - III) Stanzas 4-5

    “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!”

    This stanza of Ode to the West Wind is in reference to the sea’s reaction to the power of the wind. At the first sign of the strong wind, the sea seems to “cleave” into “chasms” and “grow grey with fear” as they tremble at the power of the wind. Again, this stanza reflects a Psalm in worship of a god so mighty that nature itself trembles in its sight.


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    👉 Ode to the West Wind - (Canto 1)

    👉 Ode to the West Wind – (Canto 2 & 3)

    👉 Ode to the West Wind – (Canto 4 & 5)

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