Explain P. B. Shelley's Statement That "Poets Are the Unacknowledged Legislators of the World", with Reference to His Poetry.

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The above statement that "poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world" has been taken from his essay 'A Defence of Poetry' in which he discusses the role of the poet in society and asserts that he is the moderator of the society. In the essay he mentions that the ancient poets were "magi" or wise men whose poetry was magical. According to him poets are "the instituitions of laws, and the founders of civil society, and the inventors of the arts of life."

This statement is well appropriated through Shelley's 'Ode to the West Wind' (1819). Through this poem Shelley recognizes the potential of 'Ausonius', the West Wind, to bring transformation in the society. He refers to the wind as the 'Destroyer' of all the negativity in the world and the 'Preserver' of all good and positive. He asks the West Wind to give him that power so that he can bring change in the society through his faculty of imagination and poetry. His radical tone makes clear his political message of the need for social change. He is like a visionary who foresees a better future through destruction of the bad.

In the first stanza Shelley addresses the West Wind and says that all the old and worn out issues should be carried away by the wind like 'dead leaves' and all the new things should be cultivated. Shelley sees himself as the medium through whom the power of the West Wind will spread among mankind. Shelley refers to himself as the 'dead leaf, cloud, wave, and the impulse of strength' which are all destroyed and regenerated by the West Wind. Shelley wants this change even at the cost of violence-judicious violence for conservation. Like civilizations begin, flourish and end to sustain progress, similiarly he wants to end the torment of mankind. Shelley says that there are no solutions to stop the decay and corruption of politics and society. Thus violence is the last resort for rebirth of a greater social order.

Shelley associates the Destroyer and Preserver image of the...
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