Shelly Skylark

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The speaker seems a bit jealous of the freedom of the skylark, which travels where it pleases. It doesn’t matter when or where—whether it is dusk (“the sunken sun”) or morning (“the silver sphere” refers to the morning star)—the speaker feels that the skylark is always flying high above. Even if we do not see it, or even hear it, “we feel it is there.” The speaker admits to not knowing whether the bird is happy, however, or from where it receives its joy. He puts five stanzas in the middle of the poem in metaphors, comparing the skylark to other living objects in nature (poets, a maiden, worms, and roses), which express love, pain, and sorrow. None of them, however, has the expressive ability of the singing bird. The poet hopes to learn about the realm of spirit from the bird, plainly asking to teach him how it manages to continue on with its “rapture so divine” without ever wavering in pain or sorrow. Even the happiest of human songs, like a wedding song (“Chorus hymeneal”), does not compare to the song of a skylark. The song of the skylark, rather than the skylark itself, is what holds all the power. It is the song that can have the “light of thought” of “the poet,” the “soothing love” of the maiden, invisible existence as the “glow-worm golden,” and the aura of “a rose.” It is this power to awaken so many different parts in nature, and make them aware to the human mind, that Shelley wants to “be taught.” Eventually, the speaker seems to come to terms with the idea that in some ways, ignorance can be bliss. Yet, this makes the skylark’s joy inhuman. “We look before and after, and pine for what is not,” but a bird lives in the moment. Nevertheless, recognizing the beauty in the simple brain of this skylark, the speaker would be happy to know only “half its gladness,” seeking the ability to inspire others the way he was inspired by the bird. This poem goes hand-in-hand with “Ode to the West Wind” in that Shelley uses objects in nature as a catalyst for both...
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