Ode to the West Wind
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Dead leaves are referenced no less than five times in this short lyric poem. Dead leaves are the remnants of the previous season which the wind clears away; they’re also a metaphorical representation of the pages of writing and poetry generated by the speaker, or perhaps even the author. Once ideas are put down on paper, they’re printed on the "leaves" of a book. At that point, they seem to be declining.
- Lines 2-5: The dead leaves are part of a complicated simile in these lines: dead leaves blown away by the wind are like ghosts running away from an enchanter.
- Line 16: Here we learn that the clouds are "like Earth’s decaying leaves." In the previous simile, the leaves were the main focus and the simile created an image that told us more about them; here, the clouds are the main focus and the leaves are used as an image that tells us more about them.
- Lines 64-66: The speaker compares his thoughts in a simile to "withered leaves," which is a pun on the two meanings of "leaves" – things that drop off trees, but also the pages of a book. Since the speaker himself is a poet who describes his plea to the West Wind as "the incantation of this verse" (65), the pun is even more obvious. However, because this is a very formal poem with heightened diction, we’d prefer to call this a "play on words" instead of a pun.