Study Guide

Ode to the West Wind Man and the Natural World

By Percy Bysshe Shelley

Man and the Natural World

In "Ode to the West Wind," Nature is grander and more powerful than man can hope to be. The natural world is especially powerful because it contains elements like the West Wind and the Spring Wind, which can travel invisibly across the globe, affecting every cloud, leaf, and wave as they go. Man may be able to increase his status by allowing Nature to channel itself through him.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. Why is Nature more powerful than Man in "Ode to the West Wind"? Why must the speaker turn to the West Wind to help him?
  2. What does the speaker want the West Wind to do for him? What relationship does he want to establish between the wind and himself?
  3. Why are wind and water the most commonly described parts of the natural world here? Why is the poem more concerned with seas, oceans, bays, and breezes than, say, fields and mountains and wildfires?
  4. Dead leaves get mentioned, not once, not twice, but five times in this poem. Why is this speaker so obsessed with dead leaves? (Hint: maybe there’s a pun on the word "leaf.")

Chew on This

In Shelley’s "Ode to the West Wind," Nature’s power is greater than man’s because the natural world is cyclical and always capable of a rebirth with the turning of the seasons, but human beings seem to just flower and fade.