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A Comparison of Coleridge's "The Eolian Harp" and Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind"

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  1. Introduction
  2. The imagery used in 'The Eolian Harp' and 'Ode to the West Wind'
    1. The images of nature
    2. Wind as a key image
    3. The image of the wind-harp
    4. The concept of a universal spirit or oversoul
  3. The differences between Coleridge and Shelley's poems
    1. The most obvious differences
    2. Shelley's tone in 'Ode to the West Wind'
    3. The presence of a few Christian images
    4. The principal concept that Shelley appends to
  4. Conclusion
  5. Works cited

"The Eolian Harp" and "Ode to the West Wind," both poems by two of the most celebrated poets of their time, each fall under the category of the "greater romantic lyric," as termed by M. H. Abrams (77). Both are written in the first person and are about the same length; Shelley's is six lines longer with a line count of seventy. Yet, the most striking similarity between these two poems is that they both focus on the same major concepts: the wind as inspiration, or what Abrams calls the "correspondent breeze" in his book by the same name, the universal soul, and the wind harp. The poems remain distinct, though, because each poet has different ideas regarding these basic notions. For instance, Coleridge sees the wind as gentle and beautiful, while Shelley sees it as powerful and violent. Shelley focuses on the destructive and creative powers of the correspondent breeze as well as its connective powers, while Coleridge focuses only on the connective aspects. Most importantly, Coleridge abandons the whole idea of the correspondent breeze because it conflicts with his religious beliefs, while Shelley continues to embrace it wholeheartedly.

[...] Some of the imagery used in "The Eolian Harp" and "Ode to the West Wind" is also similar. Images of nature, for instance, are prevalent in each. Coleridge's poem is set outside, where he and his wife sit near his cottage "o'ergrown / With white-flowered jasmine, and the broad-leaved myrtle" and "watch the clouds" and the "Ode to the West Wind," while not exactly set outdoors, focuses on natural images like wind, seeds flowers rain, lightning and oceans ( 37). [...]


[...] "Ode to the West Wind," is of a much more formal type. It is composed of five numbered sections, each of which appears to be a variation of the traditional Shakespearean sonnet, the only difference being in the number of lines per stanza and the rhyme scheme. Shelley's rhyming tercets (ABA, BCB, etc.) are only slightly different than the Shakespearean quatrains (ABAB CDCD, etc.), but both end in a rhymed couplet. These aspects, along with tone, are the most obvious differences in technical features. [...]

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