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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Italy: Vols. XI–XIII. 1876–79.


Ode to the West-Wind

By Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)

  • This poem was conceived and chiefly written in a wood that skirts the Arno, near Florence, 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.

  • I.
    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 winged 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 odors 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 Mænad, 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 vapors, 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 Baiæ’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 gray 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 skyey speed

    Scarce seemed a vision, I would ne’er have striven

    As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.

    O, 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?