A Note on Romanticism

by Yvy Truong

I think English Romanticism has to be my favourite period of English Literature. Though Wordsworth and Coleridge have written wonderful works of literature I have to admit, they aren’t my favourites. It would have to be Thomas Grey, John Keats, and Percy Bysshe Shelley. I know I should be writing my blog post about Lyrical Ballads, but I think I’ll apply what I learned from lecture to some of my other favourite Romantic poetry. More specifically, I want to write about Shelley’s 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,
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
(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

Of some fierce Maenad, 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 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,
Lulled by the coil of his crystalline streams,

Beside a pumice isle in Baiae'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 grey 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 skiey speed
Scarce seemed a vision; I would ne'er have striven

As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
Oh! 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?

There are a few reasons why I love this poem and it aligns well with what was mentioned in lecture today. One of the things mentioned was innovation against form of poetry. Not necessarily against old traditional form, (in fact, this poem by Shelly is composed of five sonnets), but as was mentioned, innovations of those forms. So as I said, this poem is composed of five sonnets, but the rhyming pattern isn’t one that follows the traditional English Sonnet (or known as the Shakespearian sonnet – because there are a few sonnet ‘types’), rather than A-B-A-B, C-D-C-D, E-F-E-F, G-G the pattern goes A-B-A-, B-C-B, C-D-C, D-E-D (also known as Terza Rima). I admire the choice in in rhythm patter because it mimics the motion of the wind (a-ha, it’s an Ode to the West Wind), but more specifically, how helicopter seeds move in the wind (I don’t know the actual name for them, so I’ll just call them helicopter seeds).

The idea of seeds as well is something that I like to mention. The idea that the wind might blow seeds to any direction it chooses, and that our lives, and fate is something that we cannot necessarily control (but the thing about fate is that I’m not too sure if I believe in it, but Shelly’s idea here is still very lovely I think). In this poem, the livelihood of the seed is up to the wind. If the seed is blown to fair conditions, it grows. If not, it dies.

I think there is a lot more to say about this poem than what I have so far, but for now it will suffice. However, if anyone here wants to add on to my blog post, please feel free!