Ode to the West Wind" is an ode, written by Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1819 near Florence, Italy. It was originally published in 1820 by Charles in London as part of the collection Prometheus Unbound, A Lyrical Drama in Four Acts, With Other Poems.Perhaps more than anything else, Shelley wanted his message of reform and revolution spread, and the wind becomes the trope for spreading the word of change through the poet-prophet figure. Some also believe that the poem was written in response to the loss of his son, William (born to Mary Shelley) in 1819. The ensuing pain influenced Shelley. The poem allegorises the role of the poet as the voice of change and revolution. At the time of composing this poem, Shelley without doubt had the Peterloo Massacre of August 1819 in mind. His other poems written at the same time—"The Masque of Anarchy", Prometheus Unbound, and "England in 1819"—take up these same themes of political change, revolution, and role of the poet.
The poem "Ode to the West Wind" consists of five sections (cantos) written in terza rima. Each section consists of four tercets (ABA, BCB, CDC, DED) and a rhyming couplet (EE). The Ode is written in iambic pentameter.
This poem is a highly controlled text about the role of the poet as the agent of political and moral change.This was a subject Shelley wrote a great deal about, especially around 1819, with this strongest version of it articulated the last famous lines of his "Defence of Poetry": "Poets are the hierophants of an unapprehended inspiration; the mirrors of the gigantic shadows which futurity casts upon the present; the words which express what they understand not; the trumpets which sing to battle, and feel not what they inspire; the influence which is moved not, but moves. Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world."
The poem begins with three sections describing the wind's effects upon earth, air, and ocean. In the last two sections, the poet speaks directly to the wind, asking for its power, to lift him up and make him its companion in its wanderings. The poem ends with an optimistic note which is that if winter days are here then spring is not very far.
The poem can be divided in two parts: the first three cantos are about the qualities of the Wind and each ends with the invocation "Oh hear!" The last two cantos give a relation between the Wind and the speaker.