Shelley’s Use of Nature in His Poems

Percy Bysshe Shelley, the Revolutionary poet of English Romantic Period, uses nature as a vehicle of his revolutionary belief and regeneration. He, in the poem “Ode to the West Wind”, considers it as a tremendous force of nature that can both destroy and create. The wind also symbolizes ‘the despair and hope’ and ‘the death and rebirth’.

In the first section of the poem “Ode to the West Wind”, we find an imagery of death I which all leaves are driven away by the Wind as like as ghosts. As the poet says:

“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,”

Here the West Wind symbolizes the Death or Destroy.

In the very next imagery, we find the West Wind as a symbol of berth because it preserves the seeds by driving them underground till they germinate and fill the hills and plains with “living hues and odours”.

In the second section of the poem, the mighty impact of the West Wind on the sky is described.

In the third Shelley describes the commotion that the West Wind creates of the surface and the depth of the sea.

In the fourth section, the poet transforms the poem from the world of nature to the world of humanity. Here he very skillfully connects three symbols from the nature, leaf, cloud and wave, in a knot. As the poet says:

“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”

Again, the poet invokes the Wind, the tremendous power of nature, in his won life and asks the Wind to regenerate him from the despair. He wants to share the impulse of the West Wind and lift him above the painful and miserable condition. As he says:

“Oh! lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!

I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!”

In the final section of the poem, Shelley wants to regenerate the whole humanity by using the revolutionary power of the Wind. He wants the Wind blow over him and fill him with indomitable energy that he needs to change the world. The poet wants to expel useless custom and convention as the Wind destroys the old and dead leaves. The essential sprite of the Wind represents the sprite of the reformation. The poet wishes to grow new buds in spring.

“Drive my dead thoughts over the universe

Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!”

Shelley believes that the regeneration always follows the destruction. As he knows the more night becomes deep, the more morning becomes close. So his poem “Ode to the West Wind” ends with the same expectation of regeneration.

“If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”

In his poem “Adonais” we also find the use of nature. Adonais has a great love for beauties of nature and so the powers of nature come to mourn over his death. When Adonais is killed with an arrow, shot in the darkness, his mother Urania, the sprite of the poem, is not by his side. Urania cries and kisses the dead body of Adonais. the poet also joins also in that mourning. By using nature, Shelley’s agony over Keats death becomes universal and sublime.

Besides, in the poem “To Skylark” and Ozymandias” we find the excellent use of natural objects.

Last of all we can terminate our discussion by saying that, Shelley is very much optimistic in his view towards nature. He wants the West Wind, a force of nature, as a destroyer of old and conventional orders to regenerate with new and peaceful one.

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