Explain the line “If Winter comes, can spring be far behind?” from Shelley’s “Ode to the west Wind”

Be through my lips to unawakened earth
The trumpet of a prophecy. O Wind,
If Winter comes, can spring be far behind?

These are the concluding lines of P.B.Shelley’s famous lyric, ‘Ode to the West Wind’. The poet has already made a fervent appeal to the wind to animate and inspire him. Here he explains his objective to seek his animation and in this connection gives out his prophetic vision.

Shelley entreats the wind to imbue him with its spirit. He requires this to give out a new message of joy and hope to the human world which seems yet lost in the coldness of doubt and the darkness of despair. The poet is eager for striking a starkly prophetic note through his stirring poetry by means of which he seeks to awaken the dormant and despondent human world. Just as the wind scatters away dry, dead leaves in order to bring about a rebirth in the world of nature in spring, it may similarly impel him to express in his poetry a new vision of joy and hope. Inspired by the wind, he is certain to enlighten the world by his verse, just as ashes and sparks, from a dying fireplace, serve to light up a dark room. Shelley is quite definite of the dawn of a bright future after the end of the dark present. After all, changes are constant and the very law of nature. Winter is, no doubt, hard, long and dreary, but it must pass away ere long and make room for spring to come. This is the inevitable law of nature. In the same way, Shelley believes that spring in humanity is to come soon surely, and the winter of sorrow and despair is all to be swept away.

The expression echoes Shelley’s memorable prophecy of the coming of a better world after the end of the present one. This constitutes his poetic view of the millennium to come. Shelley is found to exploit here the Christian myth of the millennium to give out his own socio-political revolutionary idea of a better state of affairs after the present period of degeneration.

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