Ode to the West Wind
Man and the Natural World Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
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! (43-47)
Freedom is one of the most important objects of desire for the speaker of this poem, but ironically his idea of near-freedom is the state of a leaf or cloud carried at the mercy of the wind. Treasure this: Shelley’s not big on irony.
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; I would ne'er have striven
As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need. (47-52)
Like the speakers in poems by other Romantic poets (William Wordsworth comes to mind), the speaker here recalls that he had a different relationship to the natural world when he was young. For the Romantics, youth is a privileged time, when Man and Nature are mysteriously (and mystically) close.
Oh! lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed! (53-54)
The literal "lift" of the wind is juxtaposed with the metaphorical "fall" onto the "thorns of life."