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Ode to the West Wind

Ode to the West Wind

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

The Æolian Harp

Symbol Analysis

The æolian harp was a common parlor instrument in the nineteenth century. Sort of like a wind chime, the æolian harp (or "æolian lyre" or "wind harp") was meant to be left in a windy spot, perhaps a window, so that the wind could play its own natural tunes on the instrument. For Romantic poets like Shelley, Keats, Coleridge, and Wordsworth, the æolian harp came to represent the way that the individual poet could turn himself into an instrument that expressed something more universal about the natural world. In "Ode to the West Wind," Shelley’s speaker begs the West Wind to treat him as its lyre or trumpet or other instrument.

  • Lines 57-58: The speaker apostrophizes the West Wind, asking it to make him into a lyre. He actually wants to be turned into a passive instrument or object.
  • Lines 59-61: Describing the "music" that the West Wind will draw from him as its instrument, the speaker characterizes its "harmonies" as in "tumult," a powerful paradox.

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