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Ode to the West Wind

Ode to the West Wind

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Analysis: Sound Check

This poem is only a hair’s breadth different from a prayer. If you imagine the speaker on his knees in front of the wind, trying to grab the hem of its jacket (not that the wind wears a jacket) and begging it to help him, you’ll get pretty close to the tone and sound of "Ode to the West Wind." "O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being" (1), the speaker implores, "you who do this and you who do that, you did this great thing and that great thing, so please help me!" But it’s a grand, rolling, melodic sort of begging, which is why it reminds us of a prayer. Using the formal and old-fashioned "thou" and plenty of alliteration, the speaker proclaims his request with dignity. It’s a wonderful contradiction: he’s pleading, but proudly, to "thou, O Uncontrollable!" (46). He knows that his prayer is unlikely to have any effect, but he’s going to make it sound as good as possible while he’s speaking.

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