Percy Bysshe Shelley




Ode to the West Wind*

                                    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, O 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 airy 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: O hear! 

                                 III 
Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams 
The blue Mediterranean, where he lay, 
Lulled 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 grey with fear, 
And tremble and despoil themselves: O 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 Ungovernable! 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 unextinguished hearth 
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind! 
Be through my lips to unawakened Earth 

The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind, 
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?


*This poem was conceived and chiefly written in a wood that skirts the Arno, near
Florence, and on a day when that tempestuous wind, whose temperature is at once
mild and animating, was collecting the vapors which pour down the autumnal rains.
They began, as I foresaw, at sunset with a violent tempest of hail and rain, attended by
that magnificent thunder and lightning peculiar to the Cisalpine regions.
    The phenomenon alluded to at the conclusion of the third stanza is well known to
naturalists. The vegetation at the bottom of the sea, of rivers, and of lakes, sympathizes
with that of the land in the change of the seasons, and is consequently influenced by the
winds which announce it. [Shelley's note]