Ode to the West Wind

Percy Bysshe Shelley
1792–1822

   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 wingàd 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 airy surge,

   Like the bright hair uplifted from the head

 

Of some fierce Mæand, 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,

Lull’d by the coil of his crystalline streams,

 

   Beside a pumice isle in Baiæ’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: 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 seem’d a vision—I would ne’er have striven

 

   As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.

O! 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?

 

literature, poetry
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