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Ode to the West Wind and Ozymandias
Transcript of Ode to the West Wind and Ozymandias
Ode to the West Wind
A Synopsis of Percy Shelley's Life
Born in Broadbridge Heath, England, on August 4, 1792, Percy Bysshe Shelley is one of the epic poets of the 19th century, and is best known for his classic anthology verse works such as
Ode to the West Wind
The Masque of Anarchy
. He is also well known for his long-form poetry, including
. He went on many adventures with his second wife, Mary Shelley, the author of
. He drowned in a sudden storm while sailing in Italy in 1822.
“Ode to the West Wind” was first published in 1820 in Shelley’s collection
Prometheus Unbound: A Lyrical Drama in Four Acts, With Other Poems
In his prefatory note to the poem, Shelley wrote:
“This poem was conceived and chiefly written in a wood that skirts the Arno, near Florence, [Italy] and on a day when that tempestuous wind, whose temperature is at once mild and animating, was collecting the vapors which pour down the autumnal rains.”
His description gives the location of the poem, but.....
.....says nothing of the strained emotional circumstances in which it was composed. Four months before Shelley began writing “Ode to the West Wind” in October 1819, his son William had died; the year before, he had lost his daughter Clara. His wife Mary had consequently suffered a nervous breakdown, and he himself was plagued by ill health, creditors, rumors of illegitimate children, and the failure of his political hopes. To top it off, the public had been largely indifferent to or critical of his writings.
For this particular work, Shelley found his answer, literally, blowing in the wind—specifically, the wind that marks the end of summer, and ushers in autumn and the rainy season. As the poem makes clear, the west wind is a destructive force, driving off the remaining leaves and darkening the sky with torrential rains, but it is ultimately beneficial and an important part of Nature’s regenerative cycle. And it teaches a lesson: as life is resurrected from death, revolution arises from stagnation, and creative power is revived from artistic sterility. The whole poem is a single, sustained apostrophe, an address to the wind itself. The first three stanzas are devoted to a formal invocation. The wind is characterized and praised for its effects on earth, sky, and sea. Humanity only enters the picture in stanza IV, in which the speaker begins what he calls a “prayer” (line 52) to the wind, asking to be mastered by it. In stanza V, the speaker increases his demands: he moves from wanting to be struck by the wind’s force (like a lyre), to desiring to be the wind’s force itself (“be thou me”).
"If Winter Comes, can spring be far behind?"
Ode to the West Wind
Percy Byshee Shelley
O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,
Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
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
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:
Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and Preserver; hear, O hear!
Thou on whose stream, 'mid the steep sky's commotion,
Loose clouds like Earth's decaying leaves are shed,
Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean,
Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread
On the blue surface of thine airy surge,
Like the bright hair uplifted from the head
Of some fierce Maenad, even from the dim verge
Of the horizon to the zenith's height,
The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge
Of the dying year, to which this closing night
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre
Vaulted with all thy congregated might
Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere
Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: O hear!
Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams
The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,
Lulled by the coil of his crystalline streams,
Beside a pumice isle in Baiae's bay,
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
Quivering within the wave's intenser day,
All overgrown with azure moss and flowers
So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou
For whose path the Atlantic's level powers
Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below
The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear
The sapless foliage of the ocean, know
Thy voice, and suddenly grow grey with fear,
And tremble and despoil themselves: O hear!
If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;
If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;
A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share
The impulse of thy strength, only less free
Than thou, O Uncontrollable! If even
I were as in my boyhood, and could be
The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven,
As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed
Scarce seemed a vision; I would ne'er have striven
As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
Oh! lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!
A heavy weight of hours has chained and bowed
One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud
Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies
Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!
Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,
Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawakened Earth
The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind
Shelley’s friend the banker Horace Smith stayed with the poet and his wife Mary (author of Frankenstein) in the Christmas season of 1817. One evening, they began to discuss recent discoveries in the Near East. In the wake of Napoleon’s conquest of Egypt in 1798, the archeological treasures found there stimulated the European imagination. The power of pharaonic Egypt had seemed eternal, but now this once-great empire was (and had long been) in ruins, a feeble shadow.
Napolean's Conquest 1789
Shelley and Smith remembered the Roman-era historian Diodorus Siculus, who described a statue of Ozymandias, more commonly known as Rameses II (possibly the pharaoh referred to in the Book of Exodus). Diodorus reports the inscription on the statue, which he claims was the largest in Egypt, as follows: “King of Kings Ozymandias am I. If any want to know how great I am and where I lie, let him outdo me in my work.” (The statue and its inscription do not survive, and were not seen by Shelley; his inspiration for “Ozymandias” was verbal rather than visual.)
(just a statue of Rameses II...)
Stimulated by their conversation, Smith and Shelley wrote sonnets based on the passage in Diodorus. Smith produced a now-forgotten poem with the unfortunate title “On a Stupendous Leg of Granite, Discovered Standing by Itself in the Deserts of Egypt, with the Inscription Inserted Below.” Shelley’s contribution was “Ozymandias,” one of the best-known sonnets in European literature.
In Egypt's sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows.
"I am great Ozymandias," saith the stone,
"The King of kings: this mighty city shows
The wonders of my hand." The city's gone!
Naught but the leg remaining to disclose
The sight of that forgotten Babylon.
We wonder, and some hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when through the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the wolf in chase,
He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
What wonderful, but unrecorded, race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.
Percy Byshee Shelley
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert.
Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
read by: Tom O'Bedlam
Read by Bryan Cranston: Breaking Bad
Techniques and Structure
.....Where was the poet to gain his inspiration?
"History is a cyclic poem written by time upon the memories of man." - Percy Shelley
"Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought"
The speaker wishes that the wind could affect him the way it does leaves and clouds and waves. Because it can’t, he asks the wind to play him like an instrument, bringing out his sadness in its own musical lament. Maybe the wind can even help him to send his ideas all over the world; even if they’re not powerful in their own right, his ideas might inspire others. The sad music that the wind will play on him will become a prophecy. The West Wind of autumn brings on a cold, barren period of winter, but isn’t winter always followed by a spring?
The speaker of the poem appeals to the West Wind to infuse him with a new spirit and a new power to spread his ideas. In order to invoke the West Wind, he lists a series of things the wind has done that illustrate its power: driving away the autumn leaves, placing seeds in the earth, bringing thunderstorms and the cyclical "death" of the natural world, and stirring up the seas and oceans.
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.
The West Wind
Dead leaves are referenced no less than five times in this short lyric poem. Dead leaves are the remnants of the previous season which the wind clears away; they’re also a metaphorical representation of the pages of writing and poetry generated by the speaker, or perhaps even the author. Once ideas are put down on paper, they’re printed on the "leaves" of a book. At that point, they seem to be declining.
The Dead Leaves
Although there aren’t any literal funerals in "Ode to the West Wind," there’s plenty of funereal imagery and symbolism. There are dirges, corpses, the "dying year," a sepulcher, and ashes, just to name a few. Of course, they don’t all come at once – they’re spread throughout the poem as parts of different metaphors and trains of images. Taken all together, though, they make us feel like this poem is a kind of elegy (or lament) just as much as it’s an ode.
Alliteration, Consonance , and Assonance
The repition throughout this poem emphasizes the wind and it's characteristics.
ister of the
y words a
ld West W
nd, If W
Notice Shelley's repition of words with the short 'i' sound that is similar to wind.
The poem contains five stanzas of fourteen lines each. Each stanza has three tercets and a closing couplet. In poetry, a tercet is a unit of three lines that usually contain end rhyme; a couplet is a two-line unit that usually contains end rhyme. Shelley wrote the tercets in a verse form called terza rima, invented by Dante Alighieri. In this format, line 2 of one tercet rhymes with lines 1 and 3 of the next tercet.
All of the couplets in the poem rhyme, but the last couplet (lines 69-70) is an imperfect rhyme called eye rhyme. Eye rhyme occurs when the pronunciation of the last syllable of one line is different from the pronunciation of the last syllable of another line even though both syllables are identical in spelling except for a preceding consonant
Shelley unifies the content of the poem by focusing the first three stanzas on the powers of the wind and the last two stanzas on the poet's desire to use these powers to spread his words throughout the world.
The speaker describes a meeting with someone who has traveled to a place where ancient civilizations once existed. We know from the title that he’s talking about Egypt. The traveler told the speaker a story about an old, fragmented statue in the middle of the desert. The statue is broken apart, but you can still make out the face of a person. The face looks stern and powerful, like a ruler. The sculptor did a good job at expressing the ruler’s personality. The ruler was a wicked guy, but he took care of his people.
On the pedestal near the face, the traveler reads an inscription in which the ruler Ozymandias tells anyone who might happen to pass by, basically, “Look around and see how awesome I am!” But there is no other evidence of his awesomeness in the vicinity of his giant, broken statue. There is just a lot of sand, as far as the eye can see. The traveler ends his story.
Techniques and Structure
Statues and Sculpting
Because the poem is inspired by a statue of Ramses II, we shouldn't be surprised to find so many references to this statue and to sculpting more generally. The "colossal" size of the statue is a symbol of Ramses's lofty self-promotion royal ambition. But statues and sculpture aren't all bad in this poem; they are also a vehicle for the poet to explore questions about the longevity of art, and its ability to capture "passions" (6) in a "lifeless" (7) medium like stones (or painting or even poetry).
The statue that inspired the poem was partially destroyed, and the poem frequently reminds us that the statue is in ruins. The dilapidated state of the statue symbolizes not only the erosive processes of time, but also the transience of political leaders and regimes.
There is a lot of death in this poem; the figure represented in the statue is dead, along with the civilization to which he belonged. The statue is destroyed, and so it too is, in some sense, dead. And yet amidst all the death, there are several images of life that give the poem a sense of
, however slight.
Passions and Feelings
While most of the poem describes a statue, the traveler makes a point of telling us that Ozymandias's "passions" still survive: they are "stamp'd" on the statue, giving all those who view the statue a sense of what Ozymandias's disposition was like, or at least what it was like when the statue was made.
Alliteration, Synecdoche, and Irony
wo vast and
"The hand that mock'd them "
Hand of the sculptor, who mocked the Pharaoh's passions by chiseling them into the stone
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"...
....."Nothing beside remains: round the decay"
His works are shambles now and no one care about him.
These techniques give meaning to the imagery.
"Ozymandias" takes the form of a sonnet in iambic pentameter.
Shelley's sonnet is a strange mixture of these two forms. It is Petrarchan in that the poem is structured as a group of eight lines (octave) and a group of six lines (the sestet). The rhyme scheme is initially Shakespearean, as the first four lines rhyme ABAB. But then the poem gets strange: at lines 5-8 the rhyme scheme is ACDC, rather than the expected CDCD. For lines 9-12, the rhyme scheme is EDEF, rather than EFEF. Finally, instead of a concluding couplet we get another EF group. The entire rhyme scheme can be schematized as follows:
Ode to the West Wind
both share the theme of man vs. nature,life's transience, and man his relation to art.
Both use alliteration and heavy symbolism.
Ode to the West Wind
shows man's desperation to have memorable words and
shows what happens to memorable words once a person attains them. Like humans, they will wither and die.
The tones of each poem are different.
Ode to the West Wind
is an apostrophe and
is a sonnet.
"Cummings Study Guide." Ozymandias. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Mar. 2014.
"Ode to the West Wind." Encyclopedia.com. HighBeam Research, n.d. Web. 07 Mar. 2014.
"Percy Bysshe Shelley Quotes." BrainyQuote. Xplore, n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2014.
Shmoop Editorial Team. "Ozymandias Themes." Shmoop.com. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 09 Mar. 2014.
Shmoop Editorial Team. "The West Wind in Ode to the West Wind." Shmoop.com. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 08 Mar. 2014.
promotes the theme of life's transience
promotes the theme of a man's desire to make his words memorable
Promotes the theme of transformation and man vs. nature
promotes the theme of man's relationship to art and culture
promotes the theme of man's relation to art and culture
promotes the theme of life's transience and man vs. nature
Promotes the theme of a proud man's downfall
The structure of the poems are dissimilar.
Ode to the West Wind
• Inpired by the autumn wind in Italy
• Written during a depressing point in his life
• And it teaches a lesson: as life is resurrected from death, revolution arises from stagnation, and creative power is revived from artistic sterility.
• The whole poem is a single, sustained apostrophe, an address to the wind itself.
• Symbolism: West wind, dead leaves, funeral (shown through imagery)
• Alliteration, consonance, assonance
• Five stanzas of fourteen lines each
• Tercets and closing couplets
• Terza rima throughout each couplet
• Themes: The transience of life, man vs. Nature, man vs. himself
• Inspired by a friendly competition and the verbal description of a statue
• Symbolism: statue, artist, Ozymandiaz, destruction of the statue, the words on the statue
• Irony: shows the flaw of pride, Synecdoche (the hand that mocked). Alliteration
• Literary devices give deeper meaning to the imagery
• Structure: a sonnet and mix of the Petrarchan and Shakespearean styles
• Theme: the transience of life , Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Himself,
Similar in topic...but different in lesson
Ode to the West Wind
has a soft and sad diction .
has a sharp,strong, and angry diction.