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Percy Bysshe Shelley


Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) was a very good student in Oxford but was also impatient with authority; that’s why he was called “Shelley the Atheist”. After his studies in Oxford he married Harriet, but then fell in love and ran away with Mary Godwin, who would become the famous Mary Shelley, author of “Frankenstein”. In fact, Mary wrote “Frankenstein” while they were in Switzerland, the country in which they also met Byron. When they returned to England, Harriet committed suicide and the couple was hit by scandal: they left England again and settled in Italy, where they often met Byron. In Villa Magni, a residence in the area of La Spezia, Shelley began his last poem, “The triumph of life”; but his most famous work remains “Ode to the west wind”.
“Ode to the west wind” represents the power of the wind and nature (very typical images in Romantic poetry), and can be read at three different levels:
- The natural level
- The personal level: the author identifies with the Nature and waits for the Spring (positive period) to come after the winter (negative period, maybe his wife’s suicide).
- Philosophical way: the wind represents the wind of revolution, a wind of rebellion, because Shelley, through his poetry, wants to make people rebel against every form of oppression.
In this poem there is an idea of Neo-Platonism, because Shelley thought that reality was just an illusionary image of eternity and that man looks, during his life, for the Hole or Perfection, which can’t be found on earth. In writing this poem, Shelley took the classical form of the “ode” and Dante’s “terza rima”, mixing them together and adding a final couplet.
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