Ode to the West Wind
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Canto IV: I, the West Wind Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
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!
- The speaker begins to describe his own desires more clearly. He wishes he were a "dead leaf" or a "swift cloud" that the West Wind could carry, or a wave that would feel its "power" and "strength."
- He imagines this would make him almost as free as the "uncontrollable" West Wind itself.
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 seemed a vision;
- The speaker is willing to compromise: even if he can’t be a leaf or a cloud, he wishes he could at least have the same relationship to the wind that he had when he was young, when the two were "comrade[s]."
- When he was young, the speaker felt like it was possible for him to be faster and more powerful than the West Wind.
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!
- The speaker claims that, if he could have been a leaf or cloud on the West Wind, or felt young and powerful again, he wouldn’t be appealing to the West Wind now for its help.
- He begs the wind to treat him the way it does natural objects like waves, leaves and clouds.
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.
- The speaker exclaims, "I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!"
- He explains that the passage of time has weighed him down and bowed (but not yet broken) his spirit, which started out "tameless, and swift, and proud," just like the West Wind itself.