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ode west wind

Explain the line "The trumpet of prophecy" from "Ode to the West Wind".


Shelley believed that he, as a poet, was a kind of prophet and that his art was not only a means of self-expression but also a vehicle through which he could influence mankind and change the world for the better. Like other progressives of his time, he believed in the ideals of social equality, freedom, and justice initiated in the previous era, the Enlightenment. In this Ode, he sees the West Wind as symbolizing a primal force that will empower him and empower his art:

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!

"Unawakened earth" represents the world as it is, which has not yet been able to implement the ideals in which Shelley and other progressives, like his friend Byron, believed. The "trumpet of a prophecy" is Shelley's poetry itself, in which he is predicting the transformation of mankind in accordance with those ideals.

The darker side of this prophecy is a personal one, to which Shelley has alluded just before this final statement:

Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own?

Like many of the Romantics, Shelley had a premonition of his own early death. The Ode is thus a kind of farewell statement—Shelley's wish that, just like the verdant earth, which "dies" and is reborn every year, his own physical death he foresees will be symbolic of this never-ending process and will be an inspiration to others.

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