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Ode to the West Wind

By Percy Bysshe Shelley

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 winged 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, oh 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 aëry surge,

Like the bright hair uplifted from the head

 

Of some fierce Maenad, 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: oh 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 Baiae'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: oh 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.

Oh, 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?

 

Ode.png

 

Percy Bysshe Shelley (4 August 1792 – 8 July 1822) was one of the major English Romantic poets, who is regarded by some as among the finest lyric and philosophical poets in the English language, and one of the most influential. A radical in his poetry as well as in his political and social views, Shelley did not see fame during his lifetime, but recognition of his achievements in poetry grew steadily following his death. Shelley was a key member of a close circle of visionary poets and writers that included Lord Byron, John Keats, Leigh Hunt, Thomas Love Peacock and his own second wife, Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein.

Shelley is perhaps best known for classic poems such as "Ozymandias", "Ode to the West Wind", "To a Skylark", "Music, When Soft Voices Die", "The Cloud" and The Masque of Anarchy. His other major works include a groundbreaking verse drama, The Cenci (1819), and long, visionary, philosophical poems such as Queen Mab (later reworked as The Daemon of the World), Alastor, The Revolt of Islam, Adonais, Prometheus Unbound (1820) – widely considered to be his masterpiece –, Hellas: A Lyrical Drama (1821) and his final, unfinished work, The Triumph of Life (1822).

Shelley's close circle of friends included some of the most important progressive thinkers of the day, including his father-in-law, the philosopher William Godwin, and Leigh Hunt. Though Shelley's poetry and prose output remained steady throughout his life, most publishers and journals declined to publish his work for fear of being arrested for either blasphemy or sedition. Shelley's poetry sometimes had only an underground readership during his day, but his poetic achievements are widely recognized today, and his political and social thought had an impact on the Chartist and other movements in England, and reach down to the present day. Shelley's theories of economics and morality, for example, had a profound influence on Karl Marx; his early – perhaps first – writings on nonviolent resistance influenced Leo Tolstoy, whose writings on the subject, in turn, influenced Mahatma Gandhi, and through him Martin Luther King Jr. and others practicing nonviolence during the American civil rights movement.

Shelley became a lodestar to the subsequent three or four generations of poets, including important Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite poets such as Robert Browning and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. He was admired by Oscar Wilde, Thomas Hardy, George Bernard Shaw, Leo Tolstoy, Bertrand Russell, W. B. Yeats, Upton Sinclair, and Isadora Duncan.[3] Henry David Thoreau's Civil Disobedience was apparently influenced by Shelley's writings and theories on nonviolence in protest and political action. Shelley's popularity and influence have continued to grow in contemporary poetry circles.

 

Shelley was born on 4 August 1792 at Field Place, Broadbridge Heath, near Horsham, West Sussex, England. He was the eldest legitimate son of Sir Timothy Shelley (1753–1844), a Whig Member of Parliament for Horsham from 1790–1792 and for Shoreham between 1806-1812, and his wife, Elizabeth Pilfold (1763–1846), a Sussex landowner.

Shelley had two marriages, first with the 16-year-old Harriet Westbrook, which started as elopement. The second marriage was with Mary Godwin, the daughter of his mentor, William Godwin’s.

On 8 July 1822, less than a month before his 30th birthday, Shelley drowned in a sudden storm on the Gulf of Spezia while returning from Leghorn (Livorno) to Lerici in his sailing boat, the Don Juan.

 

When I read Shelley on Poetry and the Art of Seeing by Dr. 이한중, I was reminded of my old reading with a quote of셸리의 ‘야별(夜別)’ from a comment by 양주동. I tried to find this poem from the poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley without success. Therefore I decided to choose Ode to the West Wind instead, which is one of his great poems.

 

The West Wind.jpg

 

Kwan Ho Chung - October 7, 2019

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