Thursday, April 5, 2007

Shelley Re-Imagined!

I spent FOREVER (literally a ceaselessly continuing, everlasting amount of time) trying to "re-imagine" Shelley's Ode to the West Wind for Kasey's Creative Writing II class. It was, without a doubt, one of the most difficult poems that I have ever tried to write--in fact, now that I know Shelley's own views on poetics, this seems like a sadistic, unShelleyan-like assignment. Anyway, here is the original followed by the result of my labor (since this is not representative of what I normally write or even like to write, feel free to print for use as either kindling or as lining for a gerbil cage):

Ode to the West Wind


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 wingèd 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 1 0
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill;

Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and preserver; hear, O hear!


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

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 vapours, from whose solid atmosphere
Black rain, and fire, and hail, will burst: O hear!


Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams
The blue Mediterranean, where he lay, 30
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 35
Thy voice, and suddenly grow gray with fear,
And tremble and despoil themselves: O hear!

Lull'd by the coil of his crystàlline 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


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 skiey speed 50
Scarce seem'd 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 chain'd and bow'd 55
One too like thee—tameless, and swift, and proud.


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 wither'd leaves, to quicken a new birth;
And, by the incantation of this verse, 65

Scatter, as from an unextinguish'd hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawaken'd earth

The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

West Wind

You breathe
Leaves twist and reel
Struck by your invisible cry

Rusts, yellows, blacks, and reds
A mural of loss on hard ground
The hasty graffiti of indifferent gods

The last notes of hope
Swept away by your shriek
Cowering promises hidden in frost

You woke from summer’s lazy seduction
Dazed and impatient
His drunken arm, heavy across your chest

And then you rose, raging
Towers trembled and trees bowed
Waves fled your scream, warning again and again

Make your breath my voice
We’ll sing whatever song you’d like
It makes no difference to me if it’s hope or cold despair

And, as you carry the leaves, carry my thoughts
Old and withered, in dead and dying grays
Speak them to some other moment instead

We’ll slide beneath the covers of your plan
Memories buried alongside in unmade graves
And wait for the assurances of spring

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