‘Ode to the West Wind’, shows Shelley’s revolutionary zeal and his ideas of social reform. 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 well as a creative agent of nature.
The West Wind comes inevitably in the cycle of seasons —autumn, winter, spring and summer, and when it comes, it drives the decayed leaves which rot under earth in winter and are turned into manure to help new vegetation’s and plants grow in the spring. In this process it plays the dual role of a destroyer and preserver, because it stores up the seeds for their future blossoming in the coming spring.
To develop the theme of regeneration, Shelley has introduced the cycle of seasons — the annual rotation of autumn winter, spring and summer. The first stanza of the poem is devoted to autumn, winter and spring, while the second and the third state the activities of the wind in the summer. The change in the cycle of seasons in the natural world is mixed up with the idea of destruction and creation, death and rebirth, decadence and progress.
In the fourth stanza of the ode, the world of nature is transferred to the world of humanity. Shelley now invokes the terrible power of the West Wind in his own life, and urges the wind to regenerate him from his state of disappointment and despair. The agonized soul of the poet appeals to the West Wind to free him from the bondage of the world,
“oh! lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life-I bleed-“
The theme of regeneration or revolution attains a universal dimension, in the last stanza. Shelley expresses his desire to regenerate or to reform the whole humanity of the world. In this great task of reformation, he invokes the revolutionary spirit of the West Wind. He want the West Wind to blow over him, just as i blows over the forest He requests the wind to fill him with indomitable power and spirit needed to change the unawakened world. He asks the wind to scatter his verses all over the world lily “ashes and sparks” from an “extinguished hearth” so that the fig of revolution can destroy the old system of corruption, oppression and exploitation in different parts of the world.
Thus a new prosperous society will be built on the ruins of the old. Just as the dead leaves form soil out of which new vegetation grows, Shelley’s thoughts which were considered dead by many, will prove fruitful ground for new ideas to spring from. Shelley believes that he will be able to bring about perfect happiness for mankind.