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Analysis

Flights of Philosophical Fancy

You know you’re reading Shelley when the color red is "hectic," the earth is "dreaming," the surges are "aery," and the trumpets all play prophecies. Shelley belonged to a philosophical movement called "neo-Platonism," which held that there was a perfect world of "forms" out there somewhere, and his resulting idealism usually causes him to leave the Earth entirely behind and soar up into the heavens with the "angels of rain and lightning" and "Spirit[s] fierce." The most down-to-earth image in "Ode to the West Wind" is Baiæ’s Bay, an obscure area near Naples where ancient Romans went on their vacations; everything else literally happens in the sky, in heaven, or at the bottom of the ocean.

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