Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Italy
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Italy: Vols. XI–XIII.  1876–79.
 
Florence
Ode to the West-Wind
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)
 
          This poem was conceived and chiefly written in a wood that skirts the Arno, near Florence, and on a day when that tempestuous wind, whose temperature is at once mild and animating, was collecting the vapors which pour down the autumnal rains.

I.
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,
 
Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,        5
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed
 
The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the spring shall blow
 
Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill        10
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odors plain and hill:
 
Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and preserver; hear, O, hear!
 
II.
Thou on whose stream, mid the steep sky’s commotion,
        15
Loose clouds like earth’s decaying leaves are shed,
Shook from the tangled boughs of heaven and ocean,
 
Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread
On the blue surface of thine airy surge,
Like the bright hair uplifted from the head        20
 
Of some fierce Mænad, even from the dim verge
Of the horizon to the zenith’s height,
The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge
 
Of the dying year, to which this closing night
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre,        25
Vaulted with all thy congregated might
 
Of vapors, from whose solid atmosphere
Black rain and fire and hail will burst: O, hear!
 
III.
Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams
The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,        30
Lulled by the coil of his crystalline streams,
 
Beside a pumice isle in Baiæ’s bay,
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
Quivering within the wave’s intenser day,
 
All overgrown with azure moss and flowers        35
So sweet the sense faints picturing them! thou
For whose path the Atlantic’s level powers
 
Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below
The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear
The sapless foliage of the ocean, know        40
 
Thy voice, and suddenly grow gray with fear,
And tremble and despoil themselves: O, hear!
 
IV.
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        45
 
The impulse of thy strength, only less free
Than thou, O uncontrollable! if even
I were as in my boyhood, and could be
 
The comrade of thy wanderings over heaven,
As then, when to outstrip thy skyey speed        50
Scarce seemed a vision, I would ne’er have striven
 
As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
O, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life; I bleed!
 
A heavy weight of hours has chained and bowed        55
One too like thee; tameless and swift and proud.
 
V.
Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies
 
Will take from both a deep autumnal tone,        60
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, spirit fierce,
My spirit! be thou me, impetuous one!
 
Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth;
And, by the incantation of this verse,        65
 
Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawakened earth
 
The trumpet of a prophecy! O wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?        70
 
 
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