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The West Wind

Symbol Analysis

The West Wind is the object of the speaker’s plea in this poem, the powerful force that could deliver him from his inability to make himself heard or to communicate his ideas to others. Blowing from the west suggests an association with the revolutionary, liberating aspects of the young United States, or perhaps simply a favorable wind for ships returning home to ports in Europe. Associated with autumn, the West Wind brings with it decay and the certainty of a wintry death, but it also makes a spring rebirth possible by clearing away the old dead leaves and planting seeds.

  • Line 1: The West Wind is the object of an apostrophe at the beginning of this line. This is the first time, and by no means the last, that the speaker will apostrophize the wind. In fact, you could say that this whole poem is one long apostrophe. You might also notice the excessive alliteration in this line: "O wild West Wind" is a bit over the top.
  • Lines 5-7: The West Wind is personified here as the charioteer of the "winged seeds" that it carries to their dormant rest in the earth during the winter. Shelley will continue to personify the wind throughout the poem, although it never becomes a fully-developed character.
  • Line 14: The West Wind is described as "Destroyer and Preserver," which some scholars think is an allusion to the Hindu gods Siva and Vishnu. Line 14 also introduces the refrain of "Ode to the West Wind," "O hear!", which appears at the end of the first three cantos.
  • Lines 18-23: The West Wind becomes part of a complex simile in these lines: the storm clouds spread across the "blue surface" of the wind are like a Mænad’s locks of hair. We know this is a simile and not a metaphor because the word "Like" appears at the beginning of line 20.

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