To a Skylark

To a Skylark

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!
Bird thou never wert,
That from Heaven, or near it,
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.

Higher still and higher
From the earth thou springest
Like a cloud of fire;
The blue deep thou wingest,
And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.

In the golden lightning
Of the sunken sun,
O’er which clouds are bright’ning,
Thou dost float and run;
Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun.

The pale purple even
Melts around thy flight;
Like a star of Heaven,
In the broad day-light
Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight,

Keen as are the arrows
Of that silver sphere,
Whose intense lamp narrows
In the white dawn clear
Until we hardly see, we feel that it is there.

All the earth and air
With thy voice is loud,
As, when night is bare,
From one lonely cloud
The moon rains out her beams, and Heaven is overflow’d.

What thou art we know not;
What is most like thee?
From rainbow clouds there flow not
Drops so bright to see
As from thy presence showers a rain of melody.

Like a Poet hidden
In the light of thought,
Singing hymns unbidden,
Till the world is wrought
To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not:

Like a high-born maiden
In a palace-tower,
Soothing her love-laden
Soul in secret hour
With music sweet as love, which overflows her bower:

Like a glow-worm golden
In a dell of dew,
Scattering unbeholden
Its a’e’real hue
Among the flowers and grass, which screen it from the view:
Like a rose embower’d
In its own green leaves,
By warm winds deflower’d,
Till the scent it gives
Makes faint with too much sweet those heavy-winged thieves:

Sound of vernal showers
On the twinkling grass,
Rain-awaken’d flowers,
All that ever was
Joyous, and clear, and fresh, thy music doth surpass.

Teach us, Sprite or Bird,
What sweet thoughts are thine:
I have never heard
Praise of love or wine

That panted forth a flood of rapture so divine.

Chorus Hymeneal,
Or triumphal chant,
Match’d with thine would be all
But an empty vaunt,
A thing wherein we feel there is some hidden want.

What objects are the fountains
Of thy happy strain?
What fields, or waves, or mountains?
What shapes of sky or plain?
What love of thine own kind? what ignorance of pain?

With thy clear keen joyance
Languor cannot be:
Shadow of annoyance
Never came near thee:
Thou lovest: but ne’er knew love’s sad satiety.

Waking or asleep,
Thou of death must deem
Things more true and deep
Than we mortals dream,
Or how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream?

We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.

Yet if we could scorn
Hate, and pride, and fear;
If we were things born
Not to shed a tear,
I know not how thy joy we ever should come near.

Better than all measures
Of delightful sound,
Better than all treasures
That in books are found,
Thy skill to poet were, thou scorner of the ground!

Teach me half the gladness
That thy brain must know,
Such harmonious madness
From my lips would flow
The world should listen then, as I am listening now.

Summary of To a Skylark

  • Popularity of “To a Skylark”: This poem was written by Percy Bysshe Shelley, a great English poet. ‘To a Skylark’ is an ode about nature and joy. It was first published in 1820. The poem speaks about the poet’s sentiments regarding the melodious song of the skylark. The poet also compares skylark with mankind and man versus nature.
  • “To a Skylark”, As a Representative of Wonder: The poem reflects the singing of a tiny bird. The speaker illustrates how it sings and spreads happiness in the world. Despite flying too high, its melodious song is heard and enjoyed. The speaker compares the skylark to various things, including a maiden, a spirit, a glow-worm, or a rose. The poet feels that a skylark’s song is better than anything that exists in the world. Even better than the imaginative and powerful verse, the poet composes to outpour his hearts. Mesmerized with the enchanting melody of its song, the speaker ponders over the unparalleled and unique qualities of that enchanting song.
    Also, he thinks about the subject of that song. Perhaps the bird is free from worldly woes, sufferings, sorrows, and pains that we as humans feel. That is why he is capable of taking a carefree flight coupled with a beautiful song. The poem has a heart-warming representation of unheard melodies.
  • Major Themes in “To a Skylark”: Man versus nature, happiness, and beauty are some of the major themes underlined in this poem. Throughout the poem, the speaker highlights the importance of the enchanting song of the skylark, comparing it with different natural objects. Stunned by the music produced by the bird, he tries to capture its sight that appears and disappears in the clouds. He compares the freedom of skylark with the limitations of human beings. The bird, being free, glides wherever he wants, whereas the speaker, as a human being, enjoys its melodious song but cannot join him as the limitations and tensions of life hinder him.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “To a Skylark”

Literary devices are essential elements of a literary text. They bring richness to the text and also help the readers understand the hidden meanings. P. B Shelly has also made this poem superb by using figurative language. Here is the analysis of some literary devices used in this poem.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /ai/ in “Like a high-born maiden” and the sound of /i/ in “Till the scent it gives.”
  2. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession. For example, the sound of /s/ in ” Of the sunken sun” and the sound of /p/ “The pale purple even”.
  3. Apostrophe: An apostrophe is a device used to call somebody or something from afar. Here the poet has used an apostrophe to call the skylark a thing of wonder “Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!” expressing surprise and amazement by calling the skylark directly
  4. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /l/ in ” Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight,”
  5. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; instead, it continues to the next line. For example,

“Thou of death must deem
Things more true and deep
Than we mortals dream,
Or how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream.”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “Or how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream”, “Makes faint with too much sweet those heavy-winged thieves” and “Like a star of Heaven.”
  2. Rhetorical Question: Rhetorical question is a question that is not asked to receive an answer; it is just posed to make the point clear. The poet has posed rhetorically to emphasize his point. For example, “Or how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream?”, “What love of thine own kind? what ignorance of pain?” and “What is most like thee?”
  3. Simile: It is a figure of speech used to compare a person or an object with something else to make the meanings clear to the readers. For example, “Like a rose embower’d”, “Like a Poet hidden” and “Like a high-born maiden.”
  4. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. Skylark symbolizes wonder, joy, and happiness.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “To a Skylark”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. For example, “flow/know”, “gladness/madness” and “dream/stream.”
  2. Quintet: A quintet is a five-line stanza. Here, each stanza is quintet as the first one and the second one such as;

“Teach me half the gladness
That thy brain must know,
Such harmonious madness
From my lips would flow
The world should listen then, as I am listening now.”

  1. Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows ABABC rhyme Scheme and this pattern continues until the end.
  2. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. This is a long poem with twenty-one stanzas in it.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are useful while talking about the wonders of nature.

“Higher still and higher
From the earth thou springest
Like a cloud of fire;
The blue deep thou wingest,
And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.”