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Imagery, Ideas, and Design in Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind" Author(s): Stewart C.

Wilcox Reviewed work(s): Source: Studies in Philology, Vol. 47, No. 4 (Oct., 1950), pp. 634-649 Published by: University of North Carolina Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 01/02/2012 06:40
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the familiar style of Calder6n's syninietric architecture is apparent. " The Syinbolism of the Wind and the Leaves in Shelley's 'Ode to the West Wind. along with those of later critics. See also Salvador Madariaga." Studies in P'oetry (London and New York. 168-75. 202-208.' If successful." My own purpose here is to assimilate Brooke's criticisms. as well as the musical instruments (the clarion. Shelley His Life and Wot-k (Boston and New York. who says: "The plan of the first four stanzas is typically Calderonian. Shelley and Calder6n (London. Kapstein. his emphlasisis upon form. this elucidation should make even clearer the nearly perfect artistry of the ode. Riehard Harter Fogle. is " to dwell on the uinconsciouslogic in arrangement. Literature as a Fine Art (New York. Walter Edwin Peck. Henry S. 1920). 634 .'" ELH. " Shelley's Ode to the West Wind. WILCOX By STEWART The logic of imagery-in it lie the ideas of Shelley's most admired lyric.'" PJ LA. C. The Pursuit of Death (New York. 152-58. Under the skilful and subtler development of Shelley. 219-26. the lyre. Brooke. Brooke in his essay " The Lyrics of Shelley" does not wholly neglect ideas and figures in his fine studv of the ode. 15 (1948). 2 vols. 1927). 1940). LI (1930). As "the breath of Autumn's being " and a " Wild Spirit " in two phrases of the first stanza its symbolic value is indicated. " The Lyrics of Shelley. Shelley (New York. but the initial emphasis is upon its natural aspects.IMAGERY. His purpose. 1933). Shelley 1 Here I acknowledge my general indebtedness to the following: Stopford A. "The Imaginal Design of Shelley's 'Ode to the West Wind. Although Stopford A. Patncoast. the leaf. into a fuller account of the interrelationships of all threeform. 16. C. Not until the last stanza does its mode of motion become fully symbolic. he says. 1907). pp. I." MLN. White. II. and the emotional realization of its structural scheme. are woven so masterfully into the design that their intricate relationships challenge belief. ideas. p. IDEAS. J. 97-100. XXV (1920). and the winged seed. The outstanding image of the poem is of course the Wind. AND DESIGN IN SHELLEY'S ODE TO THE IVEST WIND C. pp. Benjamin Kurtz. passim. The basic images of the wind. Newman I. and the trumpet). and gothic comparisons.. and -imagery-so as to elucidate certain meanings and difficulties that have escaped attention. 1069-79. Cunninghanm. the connotative Christian. pastoral. 1941).

for their souls but sleep awaiting their final judgment. . which are an image of equal though different value. that the wind should not blow on the earth nor on the sea. Wilcox 635 dwells upon its gentler ministrations in stanza three. . wind offers possibilities of contrast as few images could.2 The subsequent comparison of the seeds to corpses within their graves which will rise when the zephyr of Spring " shall blow Her clarion o'er the dreaming earth " is a heavenly echo: " And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth." implications which carry us on into the third basic image. p. Puttting aside until later the figure of the leaves as " ghosts from an enchanter fleeing. Its virtue as an image lies in the several values it can create. the corpse comparison suggests Christian bodies rising from their graves on the day of resurrection. . 1924). Surviving still the imperishable change That renovates the world. an association Shelley undoubtedly means we should make. . . whose moods Shelley exploits for contrapuntal effects of both music and meaning. 2 . the winged seeds. . ." The MS of the ode is in the Huntinyton Libirary. 155. See Peck. As agent the wind affects the leaves. . 230.3 Seven years before composing the ode Shelley wrote a preliminary draft of it in Queen Mab: Thus do the generations of the earth Go to the grave. Lines four through six are from the Iliad (VI." let us look at their. 1. We naturally think of diseased multitudes as people rather than leaves. Campbell has pointed out. As a vehicle. and issue from the womb. Both images have natural as well as symbolic import.Stewart C. II. 1-8) In the notes to this passage Shelley himself gives his sources. (V. " Peck. until. for the winds are of the four seasons. 8 In Shelley and the Unromantics (London. II. but our primary impression is of onrushing power as in the beginning where it streams over the earth like a wild river. VII. carrying the dead leaves before it.) As Mrs. Shelley first wrote " Like a dead body in the grave. implications as " pestilence-stricken multitudes. All germs of promise. even as the leaves Which the keen frost-wind of the waning year Has scattered. 146-49). whereas the first two are from the Bible: Originally Shelley wrote " like fanjine-stricken multitudes. but they are related through cause and effect." (Revelation. holding the four winds of the earth. nor on any tree. 154-55.

the pastoral is allied with the Christian through a figurative pun: "like flocks to feed in air. In the first stanza of the ode. 30. XX (Ann Arbor." The 4 Indubitable proof of Shelley's intimate knowledge and use of the Bible is in Mary's Journal. he points out. The wind goeth toward the south. classical. J. unto the place whence the rivers come. needs to be put upon the organic relationships of the comparisons in the ode. 234. II." Papers of the Michigan Academy. Kapstein. and seed-which uniderlie its structure.-Ecclesiastes. 1. The sources of Shelley's imagery of the wind and the leaves with their full symbolic significance have been ably set forth by I. we find Shelley blending a materialistic concept of cyclicality with biblical imagery having the same idea though obviously bearing spiritual overtones. Oct. all are interwoven. The sun also ariseth anid the sun goeth down. later carrying the winged seeds " to their dark wintry bed. The point is important. His method is to fuse the two conceptually through variation of metaphor as the variations play over an underlying image. as 1812. leaf. Whether this baroque richness and coloration appeals to critical taste is an important question. gothic. 1932). One of the most important sources. but the earth abideth for ever. 523-38. and turneth about unto the north. for we shall later meet imagery in the ode drawn from the New Testament. yet the sea is not full. In the beginning the West Wind drives the dead leaves before it. Bennett Weaver.636 Imagery. All the rivers run into the sea. thither they return again. and " Shelley's Biblical Extracts: a Lost Book. and pastoral elements. 1819. therefore. and the wind returneth again aceording to his cireuits. Shelley. Natural force. from whom Shelley got his "conception of the continuous destruction and regeneration of life" which he " carried over into 'Queen Mab. Heavy critical emphasis. White. is Holbach. Touward the Understanding of Shelley (Ann Arbor. and hasteth to his place where he arose. chap. Ideas.4 Thus like many a poet before him-the Beowulf poet or Milton in Lycidas for example-Shelley frequently mingles Christian and pagan imagery. 1935). materialistic change. it whirleth about continually. to take but one illustration. But before reaching judgment."' As early. Christian. then." the previous " buds " connecting both associations by way of seasonal contrast with the natural image of the winged seeds. we should fellow through the ode the progressive development of the conceptual images-the wind. and Design One generation passeth away and another generation conleth. .

I presume the phrase "grow gray with fear" means the plants lost their red or green color in this last phase. a destroying and preserving spirit. Shelley begs it in the last to drive his dead thoughts like withered leaves over the universe. ." PMLA. " sympathizes with that of the land in the change of seasons. for " sapless " indicates that the plants had no xylem and phloem. points out that this is perhaps the one truly empathic passage in Shelley's poetry. . The waves are influenced directly by the wind. runs like an undercurrent beneath the flow of poetical variation. 6Richard Harter Fogle." and the third carries the leaf image forward through the " oozy woods which wear The sapless foliage of the ocean. 189. a leaf. Wilcox 637 leaves and the seeds here are separate images. Shelley has not yet launched into his later identification of himself with the wind. . a cloud! " If this is "unconscious logic in arrangement. the cloud stanza. And as a natural force working through the surface imagery the wind binds together the various leaf-comparisons." seaforests answering to the power of the West Wind while the waves cleave themselves into chasms. . and is consequently influenced by the winds which announce it. he recapitulates to prepare for the personal supplication he is about to make to the Wind: " If I were a dead leaf .) Furthernmore. the wave stanza are repetitively summed up in the first lines of the fourth. and his personal supplication then reinforced through the three stanza-images in the line " Oh! lift me as a wave. But the implicit proposition that it is the Power of the Universe. Evidently he had lower plant forms such as algae in mind. . whereas the vegetation of the ocean-bottoms. either itself or through metaphor. The leaf image. (Some underwater plants do have a kind of sap. ." the order is nevertheless worked out with the skill of a logician building an enthymeme.Stewart C. The difficulty is that whereas the wind blows the leaves and seeds separately before it in the first stanza. appears in all five stanzas and is troublesome. A wave. the price the plants often pay for producting spores is death since this phase is the last of their life cycle. "Empathic Imagery in Keats and Shelley. The second stanza compares the clouds to "earth's decaying leaves." 6 In the first tercet of the penultimate Shelley states in his scientifically true note to the passage. a swift cloud . LX[ (1946). . . The leaf stanza." " The structural logic of the imagery has been remarkably consistent. Unless we are to assume that "The botanical significance of Shelley's note makes clear the whole relationship of what he says at the end of stanza three.

if it is one. and admire. variously colored leaves in motion lend themselves better to the concretely pictorial than do even winged seeds. and Design the seeds and the leaves are one here. From Mab and the " Preface " Slhelley borrows the image for the ode. not-knowving] passenger tramples into dust. let us go on to the seed image itself. anid after one person and one age has exhauisted all its divine effluience which their peculiar relations enable them to share. Now the most significant passages in both the " Preface " to Prometheus and in A Defence of Poetry describe the function of poetry. each is as a spark. it is as the first acorn. and the inniost naked beauty of the ineaniing never exposed. A great poenmis a fountain for ever overflowin. another and yet another succeeds." Has Shelley " telescoped " his two images." The image again reappears in the Defence in a passage wlhichalmost paraphrases the last stanza of the ode: [Dante's] very words are instinct with spirit. aware that until the nmind can love. the seed and the leaf.. a burning atom of inextinguishable thought. All higch poetry is infinite. it is the leaves only which are " to quicke. Probably Shelley's clearest statement of his central belief is in the former. w:ith the waters of wisdom and delight. Ideas.n a new birth. Next to the wind the seed image is the most important in the poem. Furthermore leaves suggest both fertility and decay. and new . and endure. Certainly it would have been easy for Shelley to amalgamate his images. and if he has. and trust. where he says his purpose has been to familiarise the highly refined imagination of the more select classes of poetical readers with beautiful examples of mitoralexcellence. does the use of the dead ashes and the living sparks in the metaphorical variation of the hearth justify him? I confess that I have never been troubled aesthetically by this discrepancy. and hope. and many yet lie uncovered in the ashes of their birth. e. reasoned principles of moral conduct are seeds cast upon the highway of life wlhich the uinconscious [i. But since we can merely guess about this difficulty. 'which conltained all oaks potentially. a subject implicit in the last stanza where the poet becomes a divine instrunment.638 Imagery. Veil after veil may be undrawn. evenithough it may be a technical lapse. especially since winged seeds in motion resemble flying leaves. and pregnant with a lightning which has yet found no conductor. where the "winged seeds" of the first stanza reappear in the last in the simile comparing his dead thoughts to germinal "witliered leaves. for it is related to his statements about the function of poetry. although they would bear the harvest of his happiness.

I think. as in The Sensitive Plant 7 After independently writing this. . true.8 With this brief philosophic excursion as background. Sometimes his fears reveai themselves in morbi(dovertones. we may return to the seed image again. for usually he looks to a mythmaker like Plato in whom form is transcendental essence. and then again a poem Neoplatonically emanates its effluence. This concept is the principle of form potential: matter is dynamic and evolves immanently toward its form." Shelley seems also to be using this Aristotelian figure in " Ode to Liberty. The futility of trying to find systematic consistency in Shelley's imagery could hardly be better illustrated than here. It embraces not merely cyclicality-and the Wind. In the words " Destroyer and Preserver " of the first stanza lurks Shelley's ambivalence. 887-91. " Shelley's (1946). undoubtedy appealed to him. My previous remark that next to the wind it is the most important image in the poem is. Wilcox 639 relations are ever developed. Shelley's alliance of it with the gothic. An interesting minor variation of this cyclical concept I have. A great poem is like the Neoplatonic fountain. which Shelley began a translation of when at Oxford. But the most interesting idea of all is the oak-within-the-acorn concept." MLN. the source of an unforeseen and an unconceived delight. The figure of the " seeds cast on the highway of life " is undoubtedly from the parable of the sower in Mark. Translation from Aristotle. 405-406. his horror of the destructiveness of the natural elements of earth contending with his faith in the ultimate triumph of eternal beauty and goodness. which symbolizes the relationship of the poet's mind to the divine. LXI 8 See Carlos Baker." 246-49. Of particular interest in this impassioned paragraph is the eclectic synthesis of ideas. and Hellas. I was heartened to find the following corroboration in Kurtz. we should remember. p. and a summary of the doctrine reads like an exposition of the poem. since we do not usually connect Shelley's imagery with Aristotelian metaphysics. Yet the most important concept in the imagerv is the idea of form potential within the seed.7 Yet Aristotle's emphasis upon concrete multiplicity and especially his Ethics.Stewart C. far neglected. is but one of the four winds of the seasons-but also the living principle informing matter in its changing cycle of degeneration and regeneration. 207: The ode " reads like a parable of Aristotle's central doctrine. The Pursuit of Death.

the breath (spirit) of Autumn's being drives the dead leaves like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing. Shook from the tangled boughs of heaven and ocean. In the ode is the same curiouis juxtaposition of the gothic and the spiritual: the West Wind. or in the earlier "H Hymn to Intelthat aroused from even terror. (I. this brief discussion of the gothic connotations has anticipated let us go back to stanza two. and both swirl before the wind. become natural symbols. however. being blended with them through metaphorical echo. now informed by its spirit." The " tangled boughs " vaguely limn a huge tree looming over earth and shedding its leaves onto the river-like stream of air.9 The "The peculiar appropriateness of metaphorically personifying the storm as a MaenLd has escaped comment. . with the moment when the shadow of Intellectual Beauty fell on him. which far off is a storm that finally will burst into life-giving . Maenads were madwomen who worshipped Dionysus (Bacchus). and imagery. 8-9) Because the clouds form in the sky and ultimately reach the sea out of which they build themselves again. iv. The figurative and verbal resemblances through gotshic association and the Latin root cantare help unify the poem. The hint of pale fear of the beginning. uttering their cry " Evoel Evoe! " in their intoxieated possession and wildly tossing tlleir hair about. Since.eman by scattering his words before it like ashes and sparks fronma hearth." The Wind of before it "' the last stanza is still figuratively an enchanter. and Design written shortly after the ode. ideas. The whole effect is a development from The Revolt of Islam: the vast clouds fled. In the poem both the leaves and the clouds are twofold vehicles. he associates " lectual Beauty where his reading in the gothic horror tales. like the leaves. for Shelley. . is finally submerged in the triumphantly powerful optimism of the close. they also. Countless and swift as leaves on autumn's tempest shed. Ideas. Thus Shelley's handling of these minor gothic elements is appropriate to the development of his structure. They also help in another way. the whole 10oem. The bright hair of the Maenad makes a skilful metaphorical transfer from clouds as leaves and Angels to them as " locks " spread on the blue surface of the airy surge. the power of the wind over the The second stanza enmphasizes skies through the image of " loose clouds .640 Imagery. followed by the fearsome thunderstorm and the " gray " fear of the " oozy woods " of the second and third stanzas. prays it " by the incantation " of his verse to regenerat.

and fire. the disappearing clouds bring lifegiving rains. VI. (See the " Notes on Sculptiures" [probably of 1819]." except that the dissolution of the clouds contrasts with the springtime birth of the buds. Julian Works. " Originally "Angels of rain and lightning. " And multitudes of dense white fleecy 10 Cf. and to the Adonais analogue (" A pardlike Spirit beautiful and swift ") of the end of the penultimate stanza." See Peck. and black. n. . Since the vegetative cycle is introduced in the beginning and culminates symbolically in the end. Loindon. which is discussed below. and the West Wind. ." Like mighty spirits the clouds will wield their lightning swords of destruction. a sacrifice originating in observing the decay of vegetation in winter so that spring growth could follow. sending tremendous flashes beneath the darkness. 11) as well as the undersea woods' and blooms' despoilment of themselves in stanza three. In addition the " Black rain. is contrapuntal to the Spring wind.valued classical associations perfectly relate to the cyclicality of the vegetation in stanza one. Ingpen and Peck. In addition the upliftment is carried forward pictorially into the " vaulted " (arched) sepulcher-image of the last tercet. 156. a fact that makes them a fitting image for the reconciliation of opposites. The " congregated might of vapors " suggests not only the vast structure of the dome. The Christian imagery of clouds as " Angels of rain and lightning " is also designed to take us toward the end.. unwilling wind.. Wilcox 641 vexed question of whether the hair of the madwoman streams before or after her seems to me pointless. II. and pale. and hectic red " being blown to their rains. however. Prometheus. to the thematic interweaving of mingled associations of beauty and tyranny (see below. being figuratively the clouds themselves." was " Those angels of strong lightning. 323. II. flock). and hail" which were the clouds remind us in their coloration of the leaves " Yellow. 1926-30. The same Christian overtones can also be heard in the previous word "{Angels. for.. for a description of Maenads Shelley saw "probably on an altar to Bacchus.Stewart C. . a funeral dirge of the dving season.") These double. these associations assist the thematic development by blending with it. ed. In one phase of the myth Dionysus himself was slain to join the deities of the lower world. a clarion call of resurrection in the first stanza. but also the clouds as flocks (grex. Paradoxically. .'O This synthesis of pastoral and Christian imagery is like the parenthetical " Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air. 145-57: clouds / Were wandering in thick flocks along the mountains / Shepherded by the slow. it is "uplifted" as it is spread on the surface of the turbulence.

553). Shelley takes care to mentioniall four seasonsof the year in the ode. These forces expending themselves in their self-built sepulcher are in contrast to the conclusion of Shelley's earlier poem " The Cloud. In it the dome of the clouds' burial tomb)will ironically be supported. Here the effect 'borrows ' from beauty evoked visually. 1937. aind summer in the third. Firkins' comment is especially interesting: "Odor was to him an acute form of that revelation or emanation of love which became to him the supreme fact in the economy of the universe" (Power and Elusiveness in Shelley. and Christiain imagery the whole stanza fuses aerological description into symbolic unity. 129). fall and spring in the first stanza. lines 35-36 here. as Shelley says in a letter to Peacock of December 22. he can actually see the clear currents lazily deflected iinto coiling curves by the rough bottom. which reaches a thunderous crescendo just before the peaceful scene after the storm. may . Hence when they dissolve so also will their vast vault. II. Since Shelley always relates beauty to Love. or if he sails out beside the volcanic isle in the bay of Baiae." These ruiins. By poetic license he speaks for the West Wind.642 Imagery. are overgrown with seaplants that arouse Shelley's extraordinarily sensitive olfactory powers. an image of unusually strong synaesthetic acconmpaniment: " So sweet the sense faints picturing them. like Epipsychidion 450-53..1' "I Of the live senses odor is the most difficult to appeal to in imagery. winter (wintry bed) in the first and last. the third is nevertheless a counterpoint of mellifluous melody. The incremenitaltempo is like Beethoven's in the Pastoral Symphony. which they used in summer." I take it that an image of sight through transference. and Design wintry bed of dissolution. 1818. Embodyiilg the same concepts as the previous two. Minneapolis. If one stands on a cliff near Naples overlooking the Mediterranean. which saw the "azure moss and flowers quivering" below. which will also ironically have become a cenotaph. As White suggests (Shelley. And as we read the rhythm grows quicker and stronger until it reaches its climax in the bursting elements."althioughthe image-fantasy in this poem of the cloud already vanished from the blue dome of the air (cenotaph) is evidently the and laughiingsilenltly at its emptv tonmb source of the sepulcher comparison. W. Through its natural. Ideas. 0.the " old palaces and towers " of Roman emperors. he can observe beneath the boat. evokes an image of odor. " the ruins of its antique grandeur standing like rocks in the transparent sea. pagan. arched by (vaulted with) their own vapors. p.

Dec. its first terzine is summed up in the middle line of the fourth: " Oh. lift me as a wave. a leaf. Wilcox 643 Now the scene shifts to the mightier Atlantic.Stewart (7. with its mingled associations of social splendor. iii: "Change and reform. Simultaneously " The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear The sapless foliage of the ocean " fearfully " despoil themselves " like trees shedding their leaves or clouds dissolving. and the warm and radiant atmosphere which is interfused through all things. reasserting the wind's power. their works and ways. . Critics for the defense here have offered several arguments in extenuation of what others consider expression of unmanliness of character. Fogle. We must also consider that the scene is Baiae.. These 'old palaces and towers. Newman I. The other consists of the Italians of the present day. the wind reasserting its power by roughening it into chasm-like waves. although it frames in its motionless and idealizing medium ('the wave's intenser day') the loveliest forins of the past. and that have arisen from Shelley's memory of a meadow near 1 Prato Fiorito where the jonquils were so overpoweringly sweet he nearly fainted. 'so sweet the qense faints pic uring them." p. As we have seen. and softened by their clothing of Time and Nature. and aerial mountains. in their iconoclastic vigor. The contrapuntal melody of the first half of the third stanza has yielded to the picturesque. amenity. less colorful "Atlantic chasms" and "oozy woods " of the conclusion so that Shelley can reassert the strong power of the wind over the waters. skilfully points up the reconciled discordances and opposites of the theme of st. destroy good as well as evil. supports the foregoing: "There are two Italies-one composed of the green earth and transparent sea. " The Imaginal Design . The exquisite calm of the blue Mediterranean must be rudely shattered. 1818.' spiritualized by their medium (itself an emblem of the perspective of Time). Richard H. The mellow patina of the centuries has its own attractions. and integrating the imagery of this stanza with the first two. 22. for in the fabric of society the two are inextricably interwoven. and injustice. . The sapless foliage growing gray also contrasts with the moss and flowers seen through the clear blue water. and the mighty ruins of ancient time. White says appropriately enough that " the general testimony " of Shelley's acquaintances and letters does not bear out this judgment of unmanliness." 4 . emphasizing the difference in season. a cloud ! " which is followed by the muchcriticized " I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed! " and the attendant " self-pity " of the concluding couplet.'" Shelley to Hunt. 223. are almost overpowering to sensibility.

like Chatterton. I expire! (Epipsychidion. he is aware of a power beyond himself. 193. a supplication to the Wind. 13 " A As Kurtz. 1932)." op. this figure of the chained spirit dominated Shelley's imagination during 1819. 205. This I believe the analogue in Adonais of this part of the ode helps make clear: A pardlike Spirit beautiful and swiftPower A Love in desolation masked. also his Shelley. 280-81. Doubtless no earthly expression ever could be wholly adequate to Shelley's sublimation of his sensuous eniotionis into mystical unioni with his love-object. Comparable objections help explain the failure of the imagery in " I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed! " Sometimes. Recalling Chatterton. 588-91). . Far from being unmanly and weak. 490. The reader's kinesthetic motor response to this last line. it is unconception doubtedly augniented by two extern-al circumstances-Shelley's of the poet as destined to be unappreciated. Shelley goes on in the next stanza of Adonais to speak of himself. it is critically useful to distinguish the justice of an idea from its expression. as " A herd-abandoned 12 T'he Best of Shelley (New York. this is particularly true when thematic development rather than poetical value is at stake. combined with his occidental distaste for revelation of " weakness " of any sort. Ideas. and Design Over and above the actual depression of spirits it represents. . Cf. I sink. heavy weight of hours has chained and bowed. points out. " The winged words on which my soul would pierce / Into the height of Love's rare Universe. resting upon the paradox that in weakness there is strength. But now. . we should not overlook the fundamental idea which Shelley is developing. / Are chains of lead around its flight of fire-.-a can scarce uplift Girt round with weakness. Keats whom he is elegizing. and of course./ I palnt.644 Imagery.-it The weight of the superincumbent hour. In effect he says that his youthful optimism deceived him into believing he could " outstrip " the power symbolized by the West Wind. . p. in echoes from Hamlet and Cowper's Task. however. II.12 True as this may be. The fourth stanza is a prayer. Cf. and an emotional reaction from a moment of intense lyric exaltation which makes the actual seem pitiful in contrast with the ideal. Shelley is revealing a lack of pride which we do not often enough associate with him. p. bowed down by the circumstances of life and public indifference to his poetry. cit. To unbind his " chained spirit" 13 he must abandon the excessive self-confidence of his youth and yield himself up. I tremble.. is what makes the line senitimentally bathetic.

with whom Shelley's " pardlike Spirit " is affiliated. that the power of Christ may in am rest weak. / The have torn me. for I will say the truth: but now I forbear. The phrase " thorn in the flesh "' is a biblical cliche Shelley must 1' For analogous passages see White. 580-81. the Wandering IJew. Likewise cf.Stewart C. for when I necessities. the messenger of Satan to buffet me. I. I take in pleasure in for infirmities. In Shelley's creative act there may well have merged the associations of Cain and Christ. lest aIny man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be. the biblical passages cited below. For though I would desire to glory. upoII then me. in Adonais Keats is absorbedinto the eternal: Dust to dust! but the pure spirit shall flow Back to the burning fountain whence it came. an association which may or may not be considered presumptuous depending upon the hardihood of the reader. but in mine infirmities. "I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed! " at once suggests Christ's crown of thorns. thorns which I have reap'd are of the tree / I planted-they and I bleed: /I should have known wha." if by it is meant the bitterness which neglect arouses. We may object to Shelley's expression of self-pity in the ode-mostly because of its imagery. XII. Christ's in sake: reproaches. for the figure of " the thorns of life" probably owes a good deal to Second Corinthians. for my strength is made perfect in weakness. In the ode Shelley is inspirited with a larger power. Shelley. And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations. Childe Harold. however. that it might depart from me. in I am Therefore strong." Both here and in the ode Shelley expresses " weakness. as well as the suffering Dionysus. I shall not be a fool." St. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in miiy infirmiities. My grace is sufficient for thee. there was given to me a thorn in the flesh.t fruit would spring from such a seed. which it is not lawful for a man to utter. IV. distresses. Yet this note is overborne by what immediately follows in both poems. x: " Meantime I seek no synmpathies. And he said unto me. I think-but we should not isolate its significance from the rest of the poem. Wilcox 645 deer struck by the hunter's dart." . persecutions. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice. who traces this line back to one in Schubart's The WVanderingJew.14 With it. Paul continues: Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I vill not glory. is blended another association. or that he heareth of me. nor need. lest I shoiuld be exalted above measure. After speaking of the man who " was caught up into paradise and heard unspeakable words.

may well have merged in the thorn-of-life figure to include the ideas of martyrdon and the finding of strength in weakness through abandonment of pride. Following the admission. Furthermore. Sweet though in sadness. then. and Wefind him halfway toward his fullest strength when the Power of the Universe will announce itself through his instrumentality as poet. and Design have known in its context. followed bv the disillusion of maturity with its renunciation of pride. and hinting that like them with their seeds of rebirth he will survive in the poetry he bequeathes mankind. to which he compares himself. Shelley felt that the noon of his life had passed swiftly and that he had lived so intensely as to compress a whole lifetime into his short existence. Although the imagery of " I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!" may be repellent to the tastes of some critics. and concluding with diviine inspiration attained through yielding to universal power. even as the forest is "). For of himself and the leaves he says to the West Wind: The tumult of thy mighty harmonies Will take from both a deep autumnal tone. . When he expostulates in the ode "What if my leaves are falling like its own! " he is carrying forward the imagery of the leaves in the forest. aind a lustre in its sky. therefore. for it is the instrumental poet.646 Imagery. Ideas. . Certainly it sets forth the paradox present in the ode itself. . the concept of Christian-like humility moves forward to combine with the classical concept of furor poeticus with which it is both like and unlike. I can see no abject lack of manliness in Shelley's admission of personal suffering. Like Wordsworth and Byron. Even the earlier "lymn to Intellectual Beauty " strikes this note: The day becomes more solemn and serene is a harmony When noon is past-there In autumn. Thus the last two-fifths of the ode progresses through organically developed ideas: statement of youthful optimism. The thornisof crown and flesh. who is addressing divine strength." Shelley is admitting his excessive dependence upon himself. . As a transition. and proud. and swift. . In saying to the Wind that circumstances have "chained and bowed One too like thee: tameless. he asks the Wind in stanza five to make him its instrument (" Make me thy lyre. the conclusion to the fourth stanza is conceptually appropriate.

that joy is alnost pain. .. Spirit fierce." Here is that synthesis of life-indeath that is correspondent with the "true and deep " intuition " The Cloud " attains in its culmination " I change. Wilcox 647 This last line " Sweet though in sadness " is clearly related to one in the "Skylark" composed the next summer: "Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought. " Sounds overflow the listener's brain / So sweet. My spirit! Be thou me. . Yet over against the sadness evoked by the infirmity of his decay. who felt sadness to be a necessary accompaniment of beauty. is his pleasurable awareness of the immortality of his ideals: " Drive my dead thoughts over the universe like withered leaves to quicken [hasten. . Shelley says in the Defence: Sorrow. an undertone of hope begins to surge beneath the rhythm: The tumult of thy mighty harmonies Will take from both a deep. where. as Asia and Panthea hearken to the nightingales. II. The conception beneath the variation of metaphor is that Shelley's poems. In the " Skylark " Shelley's yearning for the ideal is fulfilled in the joy of the bird which becomes a symbol of the ideal spirit of poetry. . Here in the "West Wind. Like Poe. make come alive] a new birth I " As a result of this awareness." though the mood of yearning aspiration is absent." '6. de8pair itself. The pleasure that is in sorrow is sweeter than the pleasure of pleasure itself. ii. anguish. which has now reached symbolic fullness as one aspect of universal godhead: Be thou. but I cannot die. ." . he has momentarily merged his sense of personal identity and can hopefully continue " Drive my dead thoughts. This is the source also of the melancholy which is inseparable from the sweetest melody." For the resolution of the paradoxthat dead thoughts can stimulate a new birth is the same as that which enables the dead leaves to quicken from their seeds in the spring. terror. autumnal tone- His hope arises from his personal inspiration with the West Wind. are often the chosen expressions of an approximation to the highest good. impetuous one! Vital with the onrushing strength of the Wind. is the same mixture of pleasure and pain. which are his 15 Both lines are outgrowth of Prometheus.Stewart C. . Semichorus II.

(Essay on Christianity) " Man is an instrument. and Design thoughts. If Winter comes. This power is God. Yet the seed-image itself. in the period of their purer and more perfect nature. Out of them will. likewise a favorite with Coleridge." Shelley also says in the Defence. Ideas.. " There is a power. contain form potential in the Aristotelian sense." 16 But we are not dope with the imagery.648 Imagery. of course signifies poetical divinity. like the atmosphere in which some motionless lyre is suspended. And so in the last stanza are brought into unity the metaphorical variations established previously through comparison. a metaphysical concept embodied in the concrete of the imagery. and those who have seen God have. arise an era when man will realize the full fruits of what during Shelley's lifetime lay but in embryo in his idealisms of moral excellence. when the breath of the universal being sweeps their frame." The classical harp-figure. by which we are surrounded." . for as he says in the Defence the poet's thoughts " are the germs of the flower and fruit of latest time. constantly sustained by that of the wind. Clearly too the lyre looks back 1a Seven years before the ode Shelley adumbrated this deeply moral view in Proposals for an Association. where he says: "The analogies that we can draw from physical to moral topics are of all others the most striking. The unifying figure is the seedimage. been harnmonized by their own will to so exquisite a consentaneity of power as to give forth divinest melody.nouncement: Be through my lips to unawakened earth The trumpet of a prophecy! 0 Wind. "over which a series of external and internal impressions are driven. like the alternations of an ever-changing wind over an Aeolian lyre. the sapless foliage despoiling itself fearfully before the herald of autumn. It is the statement of a seer. he trusts. so that no longer Wind is individ-u1alized "girt round with weakness " he can be its instrument of triumphantly poetic an. the clouds which form and dissolve. the form potential. which visits with its breath our silent chords at will. Moreover the informing power of the universe imaged in the West through Shelley himself." wrote Shelley four years before the ode. for the figure of the trumpet returns us to the beginning of the last stanza. can Spring be far behind? No doubt lurks in the rhetorical question. has given rise to various figures in the poem: the seed-bearing leaves..

Again in the Defence Shelley says "the mind in creation is as a fading coal. 1947). awakens to transitory brightness. 1. Wilcox 649 to the clarion of the beginning and forward to the trumpet of the end. University of Oklahoma. like an inconstant wind. With all its subdued as well as its clearly heard overtones the intricate imagery is woven into symbolical wholeness so as to emphasize the " stress and interplay between the actual and ideal. VI (October." a felicitous variation of the basic idea of reawakening since we are to understand from this separate figure that the sparks will spring up like seeds and flame into life to regenerate man through the burning spirit of the poet's utterance. ." 17 No slhort poem of course can hope to be relatively inexhaustible to contemplation like Paradise Lost or the Divine Comedy.Stewart C. the constructive oneness of life and death. With mastery Shelley thus plays the changes on his basic concept of cyclicality. It emerges from the larger vision of Prometheus and similarly embodies Shelley's belief in his high function as poet and his view of the world present and to come in relation to that function. which some invisible influence. The outcome of the ode is a monistic resolution. Fogle. the " Ode to the West Wind" is mythopoeic. Still. unifying these musical images through classical and Christian association: the fourth kind of madness in Plato's Phaedrus with Apocalyptic rebirth." The essav is but figuratively repeating imagery similar to that of the "unextinguished hearth. His images have sprung forth in a lyric which is itself potential formit will help quicken a new period of happiness for man after he has outlivedthe winter of his discontent. 17 Richard H. The Explicator.