Percy Bysshe Shelley
He was born in Sussex in 1792, he was a rebel against any kind of institution, such as family, church and politics, he sympathized with the poor, though being the son of an MP. He studied at Oxford, where he wrote the pamphlet “The Necessity of Atheism”, challenging the existence of God, he wasn't atheist, he did believe in the divine, indeed his poems can be considered lay prayers, with this pamphlet he just wanted to provoke the church as an institution. He is therefore expelled and sent away by his father. As he was 19 he married the 16 year old girl Harriet Westbrook, just because she was in love with him and he sympathized with her. They lived like gipseys and travelled much, they went to Ireland, where he wrote pamphlets about loving each other in spite of starvation and inner conflicts, so he risked imprisonment and left. His father then gifted him Villa Diodati in Lerici. He then got to know Mary Godwin thanks to her father and fell in love. His wife committed suicide, therefore he married again with Mary Godwin. Since romantics wanted to write on the spot, he set sail during a storm and went away with a young boy to drive the ship, but they both died, his corpse was found ten days after and burnt on the beach in front of his villa in 1822.
Some of his best works are Ode To The West Wind, in 1819, Prometheus Unbound in 1820, A Defence of Poetry in 1821. the last one is belief in nature and the function of poetry are expressed most fully. Poetry is the expression of imagination, which is revolutionary creativity, capable of changing the reality of an increasingly material world. Nature is considered a beautiful veil hiding the eternal truth of the divine spirit and as a shelter from the disappointment and injustice of the ordinary world, the expression of his dreams and hopes for a better future. (Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world)
Ode to the west wind
This poem is a lyric composition with an elevated ton, full of archaisms, invocations and personifications. Shelley hopes that his fire will enlighten humanity and free it from intellectual and moral imprisonment. He writes about his hopes for the future. This poem is composed by five stanzas.
The poet addresses the wind as a human and describes his activities to illustrate his power. In the first stanza the wind drives away the autumn leaves and places seeds in the earth. In the second stanza the wind blows the clouds, which bring thunderstorms in the sky. In the third stanza the wind sets the seas and oceans in motion. In the fourth stanza the wind sets the seas and oceans in motion. In the fourth stanza the poet imagines being a dead leaf or a cloud or a wave sharing the wind's force. He wishes he could be lifted up by the wind to avoid being trapped by the “thorns of life”, he shares his being timeless with the wind. In the last stanza he asks the wind to play him like an instrument, to inspire him to write poetry which the world would read and by which it would be spiritually renewed, just as the rebirth of nature which is spring and comes cyclic every time winter ends.
1 stanza: is set on the Earth and the wind sweeps away the fallen leaves but preserves the seeds
2 stanza: is set in the sky and the wind destroys clouds which produce rain
3 stanza: is set in the ocean, where the wind destroys waves but preserves the vegetation at the bottom
4 stanza: the poet is a human being who asks the wind to destroy suffering but to preserve the joyful and carefree soul he had as he was a child
5 stanza: the poet is seen as a prophet, and he asks the wind to destroy injustice but freedom, brotherhood and equality should be preserved. Here the poet wants to be the wind's instrument, at first a lyre then a trumpet, a trumpet of a prophecy. He is the instrument of the wind in order to spread his message; he defines human kind as sleeping, and he wants to be the one who wakes it up, he is a prophet, a spiritual guide who has to wake up those who don't react to the world but passively accept what surrounds them. He compares his voice to the ashes of a fire which is not dead yet, because from it the fire can start burning again and he can spread his message. (drive my dead thoughts over the universe, to quicken a new birth) (if winter comes can spring be far behind?).