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During the period of Romanticism, there was a general preoccupation with people and things found in nature that can be viewed as genius, heroic, and exceptional figures. Many writers during this period would write about things they noticed in nature. Some writers, however, would take things or people from the past and, in a manner, bring the characters to life in a new way. Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem "Ode to the West Wind" as well as Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem "Ulysses" both exhibit exceptional figures. In Shelley's poem the West Wind would be considered the exceptional figure and in Tennyson's poem Ulysses would be the heroic/exceptional figure. Several instances throughout these poems can exemplify exceptionality of Ulysses and the West Wind.
In Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind," the way he describes it, he seems to have great admiration for the wind. Even though the wind is not infallible, he feels compelled to make note of the West Wind's importance. His respect for the West Wind can be seen when he refers to it as "Destroyer and Preserver." The West Wind, the "breath of Autumn's being," brings in the Autumn season and "chariotest to their dark wintry bed." Without the West Wind, perhaps the seasons would not change, or maybe the season change would sneak up on everyone. The West Wind is a signal to everyone to prepare for the changing of the seasons. Shelley seems to say in several lines that the West Wind is not a force to be reckoned with. "From whose solid atmosphere Black rain and fire and hail will burst: O hear!" seems to say that while the West Wind is good for notification of the changing of the seasons, it is a force that produces great power and should not be taken lightly. Those that have experienced the West Wind and all that it is capable of know that it is not something that should be blown off so easily, "the sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear The sapless foliage of the ocean, know Thy voice, and suddenly grow grey with fear, and tremble and despoil themselves: O hear!" Shelley speaks of the West Winds strength and refers to the wind as "tameless, and swift, and proud." He also calls the wind a "trumpet of prophecy," which only further strengthens the thought of the wind's importance for the awareness of the changing seasons. Near the end of the poem, he asks the wind to "make me thy lyre" because he feels he can gain inspiration from it. Even though every single thing he says about the wind is not in a positive light, Shelley's general opinion of the West Wind seems to be holding it in high regard.
Tennyson's "Ulysses" definitely depicts Ulysses as a hero. Albeit, the poem is in the perspective of Ulysses, so, of course, it would stand to reason that he would hold himself in high regard. Ulysses tells of the great things he has done within his lifetime, "much have I seen and known-cities of men and manners, climates, councils, governmentsâ€¦" and he says that "[he] is a part of all that [he] has met." Had Ulysses led a mundane life like that of an average person he would not be any kind of hero or exceptional figure. Ulysses is a man's man. Being the manly man that he is, he lust for travel and adventure compels him. He does not want the adventure to be over. "How dull it is to pause, to make an end, to rust unburnished, not to shine in use!" he says. He is not, in any way, one to just side idly by and let life pass him. This love for adventure and travel is definitely a depiction of an exceptional figure. He has a thirst for knowledge, "To follow knowledge like a sinking star, Beyond the utmost bound of human thought." Ulysses knows that he is old, but does not want to live like he is dying. Even though he has led an accomplished life, he still wants more, "â€¦you and I are old; Old age hath yet his honor and his toil; Death closes all. But something ere the end, Some work of noble note, may yet be doneâ€¦" Ulysses is not ready to give up the fight that is a fulfilling life, "'Tis not too late to seek a newer world." Ulysses even refers to himself as heroic by saying "One equal temper of heroic hearts, Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield." Ulysses knows that he is not what he once was, but the willfulness to not give up on life, to want something more, to want "To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths Of all the western stars, until [he dies.]" shows amazing heroism. He has gained hero status throughout his life; he does not just want to die being known as a hero, he wants to die in the act of being a hero. That's an amazing attribute.
Though Shelley and Tennyson's poems greatly differ in subject matter, they both speak of exceptional characters. Shelley's West Wind is an amazing natural occurance, bringing in the changing of the seasons and making everyone aware of the changes about to take place. It also holds a great deal of inspiration for Shelley, which in itself is something that is rather exceptional. Shelley named the poem "Ode to the West Wind" and an ode is, in most cases, written in devotion to the praise of the subject, and even though he speaks of the destruction the West Wind has and will continue to cause, he has great admiration for the West Wind. Tennyson's "Ulysses" is in all ways an exceptional character. Ulysses wants to live life to the fullest and is not going to let anything stand in the way of that. There are many people that should strive to be more like Ulysses in that they should strive to lead a life with adventure. Both of the poems are Romanticist poems to the core, the kinds of poems that make the reader feel the passion with which they were written.