SHELLEY – ODE TO THE WEST WIND

Shelley was born into a rich family, he was nicknamed “mad Shelley” because he was a rebel, he refuses every kind of oppression, like the tyranny of schoolmasters. He collaborated to write a pamphlet “The Necessity of Atheism”, so while Coloridge was a religious man, he was an atheist. He Marries sixteen-year old Harriet, to save her from the father, who was a tyrant, but we don’t know if he really loves her. He meet an anarchic philosopher, Godwin, and Shelley falls in love with his daughter, Mary Godwin. So he abandoning his wife and his children to escape with Mary in France, in Italy (Florence, Cascine, Venice). Shelley asked Harriet if she wanted to join them but she refused. During his years in Italy he wrote his best lyrics “Ode to the West Wind” that is usually read as a prophecy of political and social revolution. Shelley’s poetry is characterized by metaphor, image, powerful myths. His personality is full of contrasts, he was a dreamer, an utopian thinker, but he also wrote sensible works; he searches for ideals, but recognize human’s limits; Sometime he thinks perfection can be reached by the humans, sometime only on other worlds.

Ode To the West Wind
This ode, Shelley’s most famous poem, is an invocation to the West Wind. It was written in a wood near the Arno, where there’s a tempestuous wind.

O wild Wes t Wind, thou breath of Autumn’ s being, O selvaggio Vento dell’ Ovest, tu respiro dell’ essenza dell’ autunno,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead Tu, dalla cui presenza invisibile le foglie morte
Are driven, like ghost s from an enchanter fleeing, Sono spinte, come fantasmi che fuggono da un incantatore (mago ) ,
Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red Gialle, e nere, e pallide, e rosse febbrili,
Pestilence- stricken multitudes : O thou, Moltitudini colpite da pestilenza: O tu,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed Che porti ( sul tuo cocchio ) al loro oscuro letto invernale
The winged seeds , where they lie cold and low, I semi alati, dove giacciono freddi e bassi,
Each like a corps e within it s grave, until Ognuno come un cadavere nella sua tomba, fino a quando
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow La tua azzurra sorella della Primavera ( Zefiro ) suonerà

Her clarion o’er t he dreaming earth, and f ill La sua tromba sulla sognante terra, e riempirà
( Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air) ( Spingendo dolci germogli come greggi a pascolare nell’aria)
With living hues and odours plain and hill: Con viventi colori ed odo i, pianura e collina:
Wild Spirit , which art moving everywhere; Spirito Selvaggio, che ti stai muovendo ovunque;
Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh, hear! Distruttore e conservator e; ascolta, oh, ascolta!

In the first stanza Shelley compared the leaves, to ghosts driven from an enchanter, described Autumns’ colours: yellow, black, pale, hectic red, and described a NEGATIVE IMAGE of the wind, it’s compared to the death, to the pestilence which strikes multitudes. There is a second comparison, the seeds to corpse, to dead bodies because they’re under ground, in this case Spring’s wind (it’s colour is azure) brings new life, so there’s a POSITIVE IMAGE of the wind, because it will grow the buds, this is why it’s destroyer and preserver.

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! they are spread
On the blue surface of thine airy surge,
Like the bright hair uplifted from the head
Of some fierce Mænad, 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!

Tu sul quale flusso, tra la scoscesa commozione del cielo,
nuvole sciolte come foglie marcescenti della terra son sparse,
scosso dai rami aggrovigliati di Cielo e dall'Oceano,
Angeli di pioggia e fulmine! Essi sono stesi
sulla superficie blu del tuo leggero ondeggiare,
come i luminosi capelli sollevati dalla testa
di qualche feroce Menade, perfino dal ciglio pallido
dell'orizzonte all'altezza dello zenith—
le chiuse della tempesta che si avvicina. Tu canto funebre
del morente anno, cui questo scorcio di notte
sarà la cupola di un vasto sepolcro,
coperto da una volta con tutta la tua adunata potenza
di vapori, dalla quale solida atmosfera
Nera pioggia, e fuoco, e grandine scoppieranno: —O ascolta!

The second stanza begins with a comparison between loose clouds and decaying leaves, moved by the wind, stronger and stronger because the storm is near, like Meanad’s hair (a Bacchus’ disciple, with her ruffled hair). Now the poet adds death image: dying, dome, sepulchre; because the storm is coming and vapours, rain, night, create a sepulchral dome.


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!

Tu che svegliasti dai suoi sogni estivi
l'azzurro Mediterraneo, ove esso giace,
cullato dolcemente dalle spire dei suoi ruscelli cristallini,
accanto a un'isola di pietra pomice nella baia del Baiæ,
e vedesti nel sonno antichi palazzi e torri,
vibranti entro il giorno dell'onda più intensa,
tutti coperti di muschio azzurro, e fiori
cosí dolci, che il senso viene meno nel raffigurarli!
Per i cui percorsi i poteri d'equilibrio dell'Atlantico
si spaccano negli abissi, mentre lontano al di sotto
le infiorescenze marine e i fangosi boschi che indossano
il fogliame avvizzito dell'oceano, conoscono
la tua voce, e crescono subitamente grigi impauriti
e tremolano e si spogliano: —O ascolta!


The third stanza begins with a quiet setting, a so sweet setting that he feels faint, with old palaces and towers trembling in the water reflex. Then Shelley starts to describe the undersea setting, where there are blooms, wet woods and sapless foliage, that at the wind’s voice they suddenly became grey because of the fear.

In the fourth stanza he wants identify with a dead leaf, with a swift cloud, moved by the wind, an uncontrollable strength. Shelley wants to be the companion of the wind’s trips. He says when he was young he thought he could compete with the wind’s velocity, but now he asks the wind to lift him as a cloud, a leaf, to be free, but then he fall upon the thorns of life and bleeds. He feels oppressed by the reality, but he doesn’t surrender, because, like the wind, he’s tameless, swift and proud.

In the last stanza Shelley asks the wind to inspire him, to blow upon him like it blows upon the forests. He wants the wind drive his thoughts over all other men to wake them. So the wind with Shelley’s prophetic message is preserver, because wakes men bringing new life.

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