Using nature as a tool…

How does Shelley use nature to define a poet’s craft?

While nature is a major focus in Percy Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind, he uses nature as a tool (with the help of metaphors/ symbols) to express his imagination, represent his desires and  to create inspiration. This idea was inspired by Percy in Defense of poetry, where he states that “poetry, in a general sense may be defined to be “the expression of the imagination” …. [where] man is an instrument … of external and internal impressions…” (857).

In Ode to the West Wind, Percy looks to nature as a tool to assist him in his work of poetry through five different stanzas.

The first stanza focusses on the dying of the “yellow, and black, and pale and hectic red” autumn leaves that the West Wind carries from the death of Fall to the birth of “sweet buds” in Spring (791). The West Wind takes on a cycle of being the “destroyer and preserver” which allows for death and regeneration to happen. The following two stanzas (2 and 3), focus on the “loose clouds” (791) and blue Mediterranean” sea (792). The fourth stanza is where Percy embodies wind and wants to take on its power as “a wave, a leaf, [or] a cloud” to disseminate his work in place of feeling immobilized by “chain[s]” (793).

The leaf metaphor is used specifically to symbolize the similarity of spreading “among man-kind” the blowing leaves by the West Wind, and the blowing leaves as pages in a book. Percy wants his “words” to be blown “among man-kind” much the same way the leaves are carried by the West Wind(793).

Percy uses his imagination, in addition to nature by comparing leaves as book pages, and autumn leaves to express not only the beauty of nature but also to create inspiration by spreading his desires and work to awaken those on earth.


Shelley, Percy B. “A Defence of Poetry.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature.Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 9th ed. Vol. D. New York: W.W. Norton, 2012. 869. Print.

Shelley, Percy B. “Ode to the West Wind.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature.Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 9th ed. Vol. D. New York: W.W. Norton, 2012. 791-93. Print.

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One Response to Using nature as a tool…

  1. mkennedy says:

    Shelley’s use of the leaf metaphor to express his desire to spread his own words is a particularly touching sentiment. Nearly all writers wish to share their work with others, and the leaf metaphor expresses the ease in which they might wish to do so. It is a romantic notion, to think that words could be spread on the wind, that people could enjoy words received in such a manner. Imagine walking and feeling a gust of wind and finding yourself surrounded by the pages of a poem or story. The ground littered with the work of an author who released his creation to the wind, hoping it would find a wayward soul to comfort in it’s travels. If only we could do such a thing! How delightful it would be to have prose floating around, not as litter, but as traveling handiwork to be enjoyed by anyone it came across. If only!

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