In this poem, the speaker observes a bird, the skylark. The speaker seems a bit jealous of the freedom of the skylark, which travels wherever it wants to go. The skylark flies too high for the speaker to see, but the speaker still hears its song, which makes it appear to be more of a spirit. The skylark and its song becomes the speaker’s muse as he continues to observe the bird and its song.
The speaker admits to not knowing whether the bird is happy or where its joy comes from. He compares the skylark to other living objects of nature that express love, pain, and sorrow. He points out that none of them has the expressive ability of the skylark. The speaker hopes to learn how it manages to continue on with its “rapture so divine” without ever being in pain or sorrow. He also says that even the happiest human songs, such as a wedding song, does not compare to the song of the skylark. In this poem, Shelley shows his vulnerability as a poet and his jealousy of the cheerful and carefree ignorance of the bird. In the closing stanzas, Shelley’s thoughts come in rather than the actual subject of the poem, which reflects the struggle Shelley has with the intellectual side of experience. Finally, beyond recognizing the difference between himself and the glorious song of the skylark, Shelley keeps the hope that someday his words will be heard and taken in by others the way he listens to and is inspired by his muse, the skylark.