"Ode to the West Wind"
by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)


1   O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being, 
2   Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead 
3   Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing, 

4   Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red, 
5   Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou, 
6   Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed 

7   The wingèd seeds, where they lie cold and low, 
8   Each like a corpse within its grave, until 
9   Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow 

10   Her clarion o'er the dreaming earth, and fill 
11   (Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air) 
12   With living hues and odours plain and hill: 

13   Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere; 
14   Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh, hear! 


15   Thou on whose stream, mid the steep sky's commotion, 
16   Loose clouds like earth's decaying leaves are shed, 
17   Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean, 

18   Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread 
19   On the blue surface of thine aëry surge, 
20   Like the bright hair uplifted from the head 

21   Of some fierce Maenad, even from the dim verge 
22   Of the horizon to the zenith's height, 
23   The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge 

24   Of the dying year, to which this closing night 
25   Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre, 
26   Vaulted with all thy congregated might 

27   Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere 
28   Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: oh, hear! 


29   Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams 
30   The blue Mediterranean, where he lay, 
31   Lulled by the coil of his crystàlline streams, 

32   Beside a pumice isle in Baiae's bay, 
33   And saw in sleep old palaces and towers 
34   Quivering within the wave's intenser day, 

35   All overgrown with azure moss and flowers 
36   So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou 
37   For whose path the Atlantic's level powers 

38   Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below 
39   The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear 
40   The sapless foliage of the ocean, know 

41   Thy voice, and suddenly grow gray with fear, 
42   And tremble and despoil themselves: oh, hear! 


43   If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear; 
44   If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee; 
45   A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share 

46   The impulse of thy strength, only less free 
47   Than thou, O uncontrollable! If even 
48   I were as in my boyhood, and could be 

49   The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven, 
50   As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed 
51   Scarce seemed a vision; I would ne'er have striven 

52   As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need. 
53   Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud! 
54   I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed! 

55   A heavy weight of hours has chained and bowed 
56   One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud. 


57   Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is: 
58   What if my leaves are falling like its own! 
59   The tumult of thy mighty harmonies 

60   Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone, 
61   Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce, 
62   My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one! 

63   Drive my dead thoughts over the universe 
64   Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth! 
65   And, by the incantation of this verse, 

66   Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth 
67   Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind! 
68   Be through my lips to unawakened earth 

69   The trumpet of a prophecy! O, Wind, 
70   If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?


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 vapours which pour down the autumnal rains. They began, as I foresaw, at sunset with a violent tempest of hail and rain, attended by that magnificent thunder and lightning peculiar to the Cisalpine regions.

The phenomenon alluded to at the conclusion of the third stanza is well known to naturalists. The vegetation at the bottom of the sea, of rivers, and of lakes, sympathizes with that of the land in the change of seasons, and is consequently influenced by the winds which announce it.