Thursday, October 27, 2022

Comment: Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind is a journey from anguish to hope. / Comment on the observation that Shelley's Ode to the West Wind is a journey from anguish to hope.

Ans. Just as Ode to a Nightingale is the spiritual autobiography of Keats, so also Ode to the West Wind is the spiritual autobiography of Shelley. It records Shelley's journey from anguish to hope. After describing the mighty sweep of the west wind Shelley describes his anguish caused by his wretched condition. He laments the falling away of his power-his boyish impetuosity that enabled him to accompany the west wind in its movements across the sky, and made him think that he could run faster than it moves through the sky. He is not now what he has once been-an impatient idealist who wanted to sweep at one stroke all the ills and evils of society-the ills of tyranny, slavery and exploitation and the evils of ignorance and superstitions and usher in a period of liberty and equality for all irrespective of caste, creed and religion. But the evils of society and the ills of his personal life have bent him down and crushed his spirit of reckless defiance and challenge to what seeks to poison man's life. He falls into painful circumstances and suffers intensely. As he himself says,

"I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!
A heavy weight of hours has chained and bowed
One too, like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud,"

But the sight of the west wind sweeping over the earth and heaven drives away the clouds of anguish off his mind, and he conjures the wind to pass through his mind and awaken all its latent and enchained ideas so that he could sing of his impatience with the oppression, bondage, inequality, etc. which today darken humanity. His mind burns, though dimly, with unrealized ideals about freedom, justice and equality and if these ideals are scattered to men all over the world, they will create in them a change of heart, so that a new regenerated society might be the future outcome:

"Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,
Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind."

The poem closes on a note of hope. Destruction precedes reconstruction. Decay and desolation of autumn are followed by the new birth of nature in spring. So also Shelley hopes that the present society with its foolish, soul killing traditions and customs will pass away, yielding place to a new society based on love, freedom and equality.

"If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"

Thus Ode to the West Wind shows Shelley's journey from anguish to hope.

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