Home  »  The Oxford Book of English Verse  »  610. Ode to the West Wind

Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.

Percy Bysshe Shelley. 1792–1822

610. Ode to the West Wind


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         5
  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  10
(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  20
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,  25
  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,  30
Lull’d by the coil of his crystàlline 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  35
  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  40
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  45
  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  50
Scarce seem’d 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 chain’d and bow’d  55
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,  60
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce, 
  My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one! 
Drive my dead thoughts over the universe, 
  Like wither’d leaves, to quicken a new birth; 
And, by the incantation of this verse,  65
  Scatter, as from an unextinguish’d hearth 
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind! 
  Be through my lips to unawaken’d earth 
The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind, 
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?  70