To a Skylark

By Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792–1822 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.

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Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792–1822



Subjects Nature, Animals

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Percy  Bysshe Shelley


The life and works of Percy Bysshe Shelley exemplify Romanticism in both its extremes of joyous ecstasy and brooding despair. The major themes are there in Shelley’s dramatic if short life and in his works, enigmatic, inspiring, and lasting: the restlessness and brooding, the rebellion against authority, the interchange with nature, the power of the visionary imagination and of poetry, the pursuit of ideal love, and the untamed . . .

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SUBJECT Nature, Animals



Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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