Saturday, October 01, 2005

From "Ode to the West Wind"

by Percy Bysshe Shelley


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!

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.

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?

* * *

I felt the whole poem might be a little long to blog, but it is worth reading, and can be found here.

Fall is here, and with it that strong wind that tears the leaves from off the trees and quickens the hearts of those who hear it. In this poem is a prayer that the energy and inspiration the wind sends might be truly effective. Certainly the wind makes one's heart beat faster, but will it inspire us to song or action? Shelley hopes so.

Yet I find that the wind, alone, is not sufficient inspiration for a life of labour. One must look beyond the wind to the wind's Source to become forceful and beautiful as the wind is. The wind obtains its beauty and power from God; therefore, if we want to have the same, we must obtain it also from God, and not from the wind.

1 comment:

Santiago said...

The sacred remains latent in poetry, which was born in ancient ritual and cult. Poetry's persistent theme of the sublime - the awesome vastness of the universe - is a religious perspective, even in atheists like Shelley.
--Camille Paglia, intr. to Break Blow Burn