Ode to the West Wind

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"Ode to the West Wind," Shelley invokes Zephyrus, the west wind, to free his "dead thoughts" and words, "as from an unextinguished hearth / Ashes and sparks" (63, 66-67), in order to prophesy a renaissance among humanity, "to quicken a new birth" (64). This ode, one of a few personal lyrics published with his great verse drama, "Prometheus Unbound," identifies Shelley with his heroic, tormented Titan. By stealing fire from heaven, Prometheus enabled humanity to found civilization. In punishment, according to Hesiod 's account, Zeus chained Prometheus on a mountain and gave him unending torment, as an eagle fed from his constantly restored liver. Shelley completed both his dramatic poem and "Ode to the West Wind" in autumn 1819 in Florence,…show more content…
Inspiration gives the poet a melody, a sequence of simple notes, resembling the wind 's "stream" (15), but his creative mind imposes a new harmony of this melody, by adding chords and by repeating and varying the main motifs. The human imagination actively works with this "wind" to impose "harmony" on its melody. The lyre "accomodate[s] its chords to the motions of that which strikes them, in a determined proportion of sound; even as the musician can accommodate his voice to the sound of the lyre" (§8). In this way, the poet 's mind and the inspiration it receives co-create the poem. In "Ode on the West Wind," the `melody ' delivered to Shelley is unconsciously expressed in the poem 's epic metaphor, and the chords that his mind generates in response are, first, the repetitions and variations of that melody -- for example, the variation of the "leaves" metaphor -- and secondly, the formal order: the sonnet sequence imposed on terza rima, as if the tradition of Western sonneteering were imposed on Dante 's transcendental vision. That Shelley echoes the metaphor-melody 's points of comparison throughout "The Defence of Poetry" shows how deeply ingrained it was in his mind. To Shelley, metaphors like this, comparing a human being and the universe, characterize the prophetic powers of all poets. Their conscious, rational mind, in routine
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