Answer: The faculty of the visionary and revolutionary zeal was inherent in the mind of Shelley, because he entered in the world of poetry during the storm and stress of the French Revolution. From his earliest years, Shelley found himself in opposition to the convention of the class to which he belonged. So he denounced the existing order of things and assailed the barrier which checked the free development of human spirit. The pain which inflicted his heart was the cruelty of society which instead of hailing him as an intellectual apostle and liberator regarded him as a moral outcast. Ode to the West Wind written under the influence of the French Revolution expresses Shelley’s idea of Revolution.
Shelley believes that both nature and the society of men are suffering from deadly diseases like tyranny, oppression, corruption and injustice. These deadly diseases are like pestilence which can be cured by a miraculous change. This change can be brought about by power and the West Wind has this power because it is a destructive as wet as a creative agent of nature. Shelley has created the image of the West Wind by some technical means such as similes, metaphors, personification, a special verse pattern, music of words etc. The figures of speech lie scattered here and there in the poem. Of them the remarkable ones are in the comparison of the West Wind to a magician (simile), the West Wind is the dirge of the dying year (metaphor), the Mediterranean dreaming of his palaces and towers (personification). To depict the onward and zigzag motion of the wind, the poet has used a special verse pattern known as ‘Terza Rima’ (a b a, b c b, c d c, de d, e e).
In the first three stanzas of the ode, The West Wind is depicted as a force of nature with its influence on land in the air, and on and away the under water. The West Wind drives away the dead and decayed leaves just as a magician drives away a ghost by his magic spell. West Wind also scatters the seeds far and wide and covers with dust to bury them underground where they lie till the advent of the spring when they sprout into plants bearing flowers of sweet smell and attractive colors. In the air the West Wind carries loose clouds which seem to have fallen from the sky just as withered leaves fall from the branches of trees in autumn. The clouds scattered by the West Wind are the bringers of rain and lightning. The locks of the approaching storm are spread on the aery surface of the sky. The West Wind is “the dirge of the dying year”. A huge tomb will be built over the dead body of the year. The darkness of the night which is spreading over the earth will serve as the dome of that tomb. The collective strength of the clouds will be the vault or arched roof of that tomb. From the solid seeming vapors of clouds in the sky will fall rain, lightning and hailstones.
As for the influence of the West Wind on and under water, the poet has drawn the picture of the calm Mediterranean being disturbed by the wind and the Atlantic, thrown into a state of agitation by the same power. The West Wind seems to awaken from sleep the blue Mediterranean, dreaming of old palaces and towers which once stood on its shores. When the West Wind blows on the Atlantic its water becomes restless and mountain like waves role on its surface. Turbulent waves are raised on the surface of the ocean and between these waves great hollows are produced. Before the west wind blew, the surface of the Atlantic was level but now it would seem as if the Atlantic has cut a path on its surface for the West Wind to pass over it. While the West Wind begins to blow on the Atlantic, the plants growing at the bottom of the ocean tremble with fear and shed their leaves.
Thus Shelley has drawn the image of the west wind in its three phases— appearance, action and message. Its appearance and action on land, in the air, and under water are connected with its dual capacity for destruction and creation. Its function on land is noticeable in the change of seasons, autumn, winter and spring. The terrible functions of the West Wind in the air have been made vivid through three images ; (a) vapor rising from ocean to form clouds, the source of rains, lightning and hailstones, (b) the stormy wind in the image of the dancing Maenad in intoxication out of clouds. The image of the Mediterranean and that of the Atlantic under the influence of the West Wind are also terrible forces of nature.
Shelley’s approach to the phenomena of nature was distinct from others. The life of nature to Shelley was as real as the life of man. But his attitude to nature was scientific. Shelley retained or even magnified the true character of a natural phenomenon when he personified it. His West Wind, while he personified it remained a wind, or rather a terrible wind, an agent of destruction and preservation for creating again in nature.