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1/02/2019

"Ode to West Wind" : Lyricism in It.


   In poetry as well as in art and music, lyricism means the expression of strong emotion accompanied by melody, lucidity and spontaneity in a personal or subjective mode. Albert says, “His (  Shelley’s) lyrical power is equal to the highest in any language. It is now recognized to be one of the supreme gifts in literature like the dramatic genius of Shakespeare.” This gift is shown at its best when it expresses the highest emotional ecstasy.

A lyric poem is usually fairly short, not often longer than fifty or sixty lines, and often only between a dozen and thirty lines.

Ode to the West Wind is a lyric poem. In respect of size it does not far exceed the usual length of a lyric poem, and in point of lyricism, it is regarded as one of he best of Shelley’s lyrics.

Strong emotion, the chief quality of a lyric poem, is evident throughout the poem, and it is Shelley’s personal. In depicting the power of the West Wind as a destroyer and preserver in autumn, Shelley’s feelings of admiration are at the highest pitch. It is marked in his apostrophe, the impassioned address to the Wind. “O Wild West Wind, though breath of Autumn’s being”, and in the metaphors and similes. His appeal to the Wind is equally passionate. At the end of the first three stanzas, he says,  “Oh, hear!”, appealing to the West Wind. His intensest emotion is manifested in his passionate entreaty, “oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!/ I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!”  The concluding line, “If Winter comes, Can Spring be far behind?”, though it sounds sober, is charged with suppressed emotion of his optimism.

As regards melody or musical quality, it is indeed difficult to realize it because the sentences are very long, as demanded by the requirements of the verse form that he has used: terza rima. But still the adept handling of the iambic pentameter lines, and the use of the devices like alliteration, assonance, consonance, and dissonance, produces enough melody for a lyric poem. We can mention just a few lines out of many supporting the observation. “Lulled by the coil of his crystalline stream” has alliteration in the repetition of “I” sounds, producing melody. “The sea-blooms and the oozy woods” has assonance in the repetition of the “I” and “u” sounds.

The quality of lucidity is equally evident throughout the poem. Desmond King-Hele, one of the famous critics of Shelley, remarks about this quality in the following words, “Shelley has made the heroic lines move swiftly so as to give the impression of the irresistible and fast movement of the wind… it is the most fully orchestrated of Shelley’s poems.”  Albert says, “The stanzas have the elemental rush of the wind itself, and the conclusion…. is the most remarkable of all”. Moreover, the development of thought is very easy to understand, which highlights this essential quality of a lyric.
Considered from the point of lyricism, Ode to the West Wind is of the highest excellence.

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