Ode to the West Wind
Mortality Quotes Page 1
How we cite our quotes:
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing (2-3)
The second image of Shelley’s "Ode to the West Wind" involves not one but two references to death: the "leaves dead" that are strewn over the ground in autumn, and the "ghosts" of which they remind us.
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed
The wingèd seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow
Her clarion o'er the dreaming earth, and fill
[. . .]
With living hues and odours plain and hill (5-10, 12)
The West Wind plants seeds in the ground in the autumn that will germinate next spring. But the seedbeds are like graves, the seeds are like corpses, and their transformation in the Spring is like the resurrection of bodies during the Apocalypse. The Spring wind even blows a "clarion" that reminds us of the Last Trumpet. Even the quickening of life in a tiny seed reminds Shelley more of death than it does of birth.
Of the dying year, to which this closing night
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre (23-25)
If the West Wind is a dirge and the autumn night is a tomb, then who is the corpse? The speaker? Nature? The entire world? All or none of the above?