Discuss Shelleys optimism with reference to Ode to the West Wind

Discuss Shelleys optimism with reference to Ode to the West Wind


P. B. Shelley (1792-1822) is one of the famous romantic poets of the second generation of the Romantic period (1798-1832). He is at the same time optimist and a pessimist since he thinks about the regeneration of mankind and the reformation of human society. In the poem “Ode to the West Wind”, he has expressed his optimism and pessimism.

Influence of the French Revolution

French Revolution has a strong influence on the romantic poets. Among the romantics, Shelley has been motivated very much by the mottoes of the French Revolution – liberty, equality, and fraternity. His poem “Ode to the Wind West”, is the perfect reflection of the French Revolution since the ultimate message of the poem is the end of oppression, corruption, and eventually a better society or in a broader sense a world based on good governance.

More Notes of Poetry

Cantos of the poem

There are five cantos or sections in the poem. In the long five cantos of the poem, the poet provides the message about the present that is out and out pessimistic but at the same, he believes that the future prospect of human society is absolutely optimistic. The illustration of the poem is based on images and symbols.

Observation of private life

Shelley’s observation of personal life is widespread since his sufferings and pains symbolize or embody the entire society. The poet was to face the harsh reality of life in his student life at Oxford University. Once he was forceful like the west wind but he is now tameless and has been fallen into the thorns of life.

“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”.

Such private agony is the pessimistic point of view as to not only personal life but also society that is loose and fragile. So, the poet is pessimistic. But he appeals to the west wind, which is the symbol of revolution, to bring about a forceful change which is a strong belief of pessimism. He seeks to revolutionize and reform human being inspired by the spirit of the west wind.

Observation of public life

As a keen observer, Shelley is a tremendous philosopher of prophecy. He mentions the golden time of human society that is the Roman Empire. The reference of the Roman Empire signifies the change of order and rule. His opinion on the present society and the governing system is that corruption and malfunction exist in every corner of society. This must be changed by the revolutionary power and the west wind is an example of such power as it is destructive as well as a creative agent of nature. The poet wants to scatter his revolutionary thoughts and messages by dint of the west wind.

“The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,

If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”


Thus, the poet means to say when the problems are thick, the solution starts its journey to vanish the problems. It is our right to say that Shelley is optimistic and pessimistic in his poetic art.

SR Sarker
SR Sarker
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