- The symbolic significance of the quotation
- The optimism of the poet
- Influence of French Revolution
- After Desolation and howling barrenness, the hope for the sparkling joys of spring
- The belief in the coming happy days
- In the present pessimistic situation, this quotation is a call of optimism
Everywhere – as much as a visionary prophet as well as a Platonist idealist – Shelley always announces, something in exquisitely poetic harmony, the advent of the Millennium, which embodies of idea traditionalizes by which the human race is at present bound together. The quotation referred to, is the last line of the stanza of Shelley’s ‘Ode to the West Wind’, which is a fine comparison of the poet himself to the forest in autumn, when the trees are about to become apparently dead during the dark and dreary winter. He longs that his heart should be imbued with the harmonious impetuosity of the shed of their leaves, as well as with the mind of the poet, whose life is harmony of the West Wind by imparting to it a solemnity and melancholy, which are inseparable from the sweetness of autumnal.
The idea, embodied in the quotation, has a symbolic significance. The poet stands for the frustrated human intellect, which he apparently devastating West Wind stands for hope in an inverted form. Shelley compares his thoughts to the dead leaves of the autumnal forest, which by burying and fertilizing the seeds, help the outburst, of a new life in spring. So he hopes that the prophetic words of hope or the message of hope, which the tumultuous wind broadcasts all over the earth, will ultimately help on the new bright impulses, which lie dormant in humanity, to blossom forth into beautiful and noble actions. So he, most solemnly and passionately, appeals to the autumnal wind to scatter the message of hope and optimism, which it incubates upon, among the terror-stricken and nervously bewildered humanity, to make it once again an invigorating and aspiringly creative throbbing pulse of vitality. Humanity, according to the prophetic vision of the poet, is not completely paralyzed; it is not dead; it still possesses some vigour like the embers, still glowing in the depressed and apparently dead flame of vitality. Winter is sure to be followed by spring and so the human destiny must have its ultimate Perfection – or the Millennium.
The quotation “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind” is the trumpet’ call of the forces of optimism to the objects of degeneration, and degradation lying almost cramped under the heavy weight of social tyrannies and oppression. In the second phase of French Revolution when these swept over the whole of Central Europe, a reign of bloodshed and plunder – when, according to most of the then living philosophers, the European civilization, in particular, and the entire human civilization, in general seemed to be breaking – there came up certain optimistic idealists (like Weirnout and Rebel) who predicted that the destructive tide of events was an indication to the fact that out of the chaos and tumult a new civilization, pregnant with eternal bliss and perpetually inspiring zeal, will shoot, heralding the dawn of a new era of liberty and equality.
Shelley, who was an upholder of the cause of Revolution, believed that bloodshed and destruction were a stimulant to the stagnant and insipid society, which was collapsing into a listless and helpless state of boredom. He held out a rich store of hope for the oppressed humanity. So he says that it is true that the West Wind blowing, as it does in autumn, indicates that winter, with its desolation and howling barrenness, is at hand; but once winter, the undoubtedly dreary season, has set in, it must soon make room for the sparkling joys of spring, for the latter lies close in the wake of the former and sooner or latter takes the place of winter.
Similarly, though the world, at present, is passing through a period of miserable existence, being over-ridden by false conventions and the artificialities of the society, a time will soon come when all these will automatically fade away and a new gloriously hope-inspiring era take the place of the old. Mankind, therefore, at the time of spiritual and social crisis, need not lose hope. The worst period of a man’s life is sure to be followed by a better one. Days of the darkness of frustration and dejection do not constitute the entire span of man’s life; these periods are short-lived and even if long-lived, do not indicate permanence of misery – and it is the supreme truth of nature that there must be a change of the existing system. Man must not be completely disheartened; he should have an abiding faith in the scheme of nature – that every dark night is followed by radiantly fresh dawn.
Thus, the quotation, under examination, may be taken as humanity’s clarion-call of optimism and hope. Today, especially in these days of cold war, a fear complex – a pall of dejected hope is benumbing the minds of the people almost all over the world. A sense of self-frustration is haunting our minds day and night and the result is that we have become frightfully pessimistic in our outlook. A kind of chilly self-defeatism has overwhelmed our souls; a sense of Vanquished isolationism has enfolded our spirits like a wave of cold mist; we have ceased to maintain faith, even in God’s noble measure of mercy. Our civilization is crumbling into the dust of inferiority complex; in short we have become morbidly tired with our very existence.
At this critical juncture, when humanity is in a state of spiritual and intellectual torpor, when the forces of disintegration and disbelief are making us their prey, we need an inspiring trumpet — like that of Shelley — to awaken us from the drowsy state of self-defeatism and raise our depressed and smothered spirit, with the message of: “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”
The quotation, referred above, is highly significant, particularly in our country at present, There are dark – glassed critics who, like Jaques (in Shakespeare’s ‘As Yoh Like it’), see everything dark and disappointing in the new endeavours to raise Pakistan in her manifold aspects of development. These cynics of criticism should change there out-look and sing with Shelley: “If Winter coines, can spring be far behind?” Pakistan’s destiny, in every sphere of her development, – however dark and disappointing it may look – is sure to be crowned with the highest laurel of triumphant success, sooner or later.