Now that a hard November wind is whirling the leaves about, it’s time for Shelley and his Ode to the West Wind. Percy Bysshe Shelley had a brief life, but it was so vivid with poetry, so politically radical, so sexually unrestrained, so romantic and Romantic, that he still arouses controversy among readers who know even a little about him.
He was born in England on August 4, 1892 and drowned in a stormy sea off the coast of Italy on July 8, 1822, not having quite reached age 30. Shelley ran afoul of law and convention a number of times. He wrote some great poems, many political and social pamphlets, and a number of papers which advocated atheism. He also indulged in sexual shenanigans, inspired loyal friendships, and left a few ruined lives in his wake.
Technically, Ode to the West Wind is composed of five cantos in iambic pentameter and the overall rhyme scheme is terza rima – a beautiful method of linking three-line stanzas with aba, bcb, cdc, and so forth. Terza rima had been rarely used in English. It was most famously used by Dante in his Divine Comedy, that poem of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven, where the number three recurs in a multitude of ways. Terza rima isn’t easy to work, and nobody has succeeded in doing a good job of translating Dante into English using his rhyme scheme. As for the meaning of Shelley’s Ode, that’s impossible to cram into a brief paragraph — yes, it’s about the weather, but much, much more as well. Don’t sweat it. You can read a bit now and come back to it later. OK, here’s the poem:
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; Continue reading »
Destroyer and preserver; hear, O hear!
Continue reading »
- If you have a comment to make, we'd like to hear from you, so long as it doesn't reduce us to tears. Or, better yet, if you've written a couple of paragraphs on an engaging topic, send them along. Our email address is on the Contact page, and you can get there by clicking the word Contact just above the calender.
What have we got here…"Ode to Autumn" Art Arts Banks Books Chicken Little Christmas Classic novels Culture Death Economics Flower Flowers Food French Cinema Great literature History Lies Literature Marijuana Marilyn Robertson Media Movies Nasturtiums Nature Nudity Obama Occupy Wall Street Painting Poem Poetry Politics Privacy Reading Religion Republicans Romney Science Sex Society Starving writers Supreme Court Taxes theology Valentine's Day
Eugene Mirabelli writes most of the posts here. In addition to his mainstream literary novels, he also writes fantasy tales and science fiction - admittedly a shameful pleasure. His story, "The Shore at the Edge of the World," which first appeared in the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, was recently reprinted in China in their dominant Science Fiction magazine, SF World. If you know Chinese and can get your hands on a copy, you're in luck.
Elsewhere on Critical Pages home page we have a post about an exhibit of photographs from the Golden Age of porn movies. And that leads us to The Passion of Terri Heart, a novel about a young woman who acts in porn films, gives birth to a fatherless child, and thinks of herself as a sacred mother, the Mother of Milk and Honey. Check it out.