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Ode to the West Wind

Ode to the West Wind

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Funerals

Symbol Analysis

Although there aren’t any literal funerals in "Ode to the West Wind," there’s plenty of funereal imagery and symbolism. We’ve got dirges, corpses, the "dying year," a sepulcher, and ashes, just to name a few. Of course, they don’t all come at once – they’re spread throughout the poem as parts of different metaphors and trains of images. Taken all together, though, 9they make us feel like this poem is a kind of elegy (or lament) just as much as it’s an ode.

  • Lines 5-12: In an extended simile, Shelley compares seeds to corpses lying in their graves. This is also an allusion to the Christian imagery of the Apocalypse, in which a "Last Trumpet" is blown (here, the Spring blows a "clarion," which is a kind of trumpet) in order to resurrect the bodies of the dead (here, the corpses of the seeds, which will come to life in the spring). For more on this, see "Quotes and Thoughts" under the theme "Mortality."
  • Lines 23-28: This extended metaphor compares the West Wind to a dirge, the dying year to the dead man in a funeral, and the night sky to the dome of a sepulchre. Toward the end of the metaphor, Shelley’s imagery breaks away from the strict correspondences of the metaphor, and both the wind and the inside of the sepulchre become stormy. It’s almost as though, when the storm breaks, when "Black rain and fire and hail will burst," the metaphor is broken down from inside.
  • Lines 65-67: The poem becomes a spell, or "incantation," by which the poet hopes to make the West Wind scatter his words, which are metaphorically described as "[a]shes and sparks." Some of the words have the power to light new metaphorical "fires" under other poets and thinkers, while others are already "dead."

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