Ode to the West Wind by Shelley, one of the greatest English poems has always been the favorite of all critics. The poem is highly musical. It is true that Shelley’s lyrical power is unsurpassable. This poem was written in a forest. In the first stanza, the poet addresses the west wind. The wind is the symbol of God. It is both ‘destroyer and preserver’ just like the Hindu God Shiva who in various scriptures has been described as both preserver of life, and also destroyer of evil.
This has been described as the greatest poem by
Let us try to find out how the west wind destroys and preserves both. The truth is that the withered leaves are destroyed by 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,
Shelley in the above lines reveals that the decayed leaves vanish in the presence of the mighty west wind as the ghosts are driven by a Mantra of a magician. These leaves seem to be afflicted with pestilence. This seemsto be an extended metaphor. The mighty God destroys Evil, therefore the powerful west wind has been rightly compared with God.
But there is another aspect of the Divine Power or the west wind. Just as most benevolent and kind God preserves us and provides us His blessings, similarly the west wind preserves the seed that will bloom in the spring.
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
The poet is an inspiring prophet of hope. Spring is the azure sister of the west wind. Shelley is giving a very powerful message to the whole humanity. And this message is as valid today as in Shelley’s time. Many critics have wrongly criticized Shelley’s abstract thinking. The last line of the Ode to the West wind is a testimony to the fact that Shelley is hopeful about the arrival of the golden age: “If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”