Percy Bysshe Shelley hated oppression and injustice. Because he was dissatisfied with
government and religion in their traditional forms, Shelley had a burning desire from his
youth to change the world. What appears to be Shelley’s attitude towards the ruling
classes and the possibilities of significant sociopolitical change in “Ozymandias,” “A
Song: ‘Men of England,’ ” “England in 1819,” and “Ode to the West Wind”?
Shelley abhors the ruling class, and seems to think that significant sociopolitical change is on the
horizon. In “Ozymandias”, Shelley explains his cynicism with the power of the ruling class and
doubts its great impact on humanity as a whole. Shelley uses king
of Egypt to
illustrate how “mighty” rulers are worthless to humanity. Their power, like that of Ozymandias,
will not withstand the test of time. Ironically, even though the king was very powerful, now,
everything he stood for has been destroyed. He thought he was an important and mighty man, but
his kingdom has decayed and is a “colossal Wreck, boundless and bare” (11-12).
In “A Song: Men of England,” Shelley expresses his attitude towards the ruling class and urges
the lower class to instigate a rebellion that would bring about sociopolitical change. Shelley calls
for the working class, including farmers, textile workers, and those who work in the arms
industry. He is especially angry at the ruling class, calling them “your tyrants” (4) and
“ungrateful drones” (7). He explains that they “drink your blood” (8). They economically exploit
the lower class. Because of this exploitation, Shelley urges the working class to revolt: to “Forge
arms—in your defence to bear” line 24. He poses the question of why people need to take action
against their victimization by the ruling class, and answers it: because otherwise, they are
digging their own grave.
In “England in 1819,” Shelley scorns King George and predicts a revolution. Shelley describes
King George as “leechlike” (5) and describes how he is why people are suffering in England. He
clearly deplores “Golden and sanguine laws” (10), which are laws which are “bought in gold,
and leading to bloodshed”.
He implies that a revolution will soon light up what he describes as a
“tempestuous” (14) time in England’s history.
In “Ode to the West Wind,” Shelley uses the metaphor of the West Wind to symbolize poetic
inspiration. He calls it the "dirge / Of the dying year," (23-24) asking it to send the message of
re-generation to the word. He describes many ways in which wind interacts with atmospheric
elements, and urges the wind to inspire him. He says in the last line “If Winter comes, can Spring
be far behind?” This is especially significant because the “Spring” he is discussing symbolizes