Explanation ‘To a Skylark’ Shelley
(a) 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.
Ans. The lines have been taken from the beautiful lyric “To a Skylark” by the great Romantic poet P. B. Shelley. With the help of a beautiful simile, here the poet makes an effort to bring home to the world the intense joyousness, ethereality, spontaneity and the intensity of the bird’s song.
The poet whose thoughts are flagged and who is constantly in a state of melancholy at the sight of suffering in the world is filled with amazement as to how any living thing can be so happy. The poet is puzzled to think that whether the skylark is a mere bird or a spirit of delight. To the poet the skylark stands for musical ecstasy. He is baffled by the spiritual quality of its music and the spontaneous profusion of its song, as it soars and sings and looses itself in the atmosphere of the upper air. In the lines quoted, Shelley wonders if the Skylark is a bird at all for nothing on the earth closely resembles the skylark. The melodious music flowing from the Skylark is so rich and spontaneous that it is much more pleasant and delightful even than the bright and lustrous rain drops falling from the clouds in the sun at the time of a rainbow in the sky. Shelley, by employing a series of beautiful images, conveys to the reader the idea that the music of the skylark is something bright, ethereal and ecstatic.
(b) 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:
Ans: The lines have been taken from the beautiful lyric “To a Skylark by the great Romantic poet P. B. Shelley. Here the poet touches upon the importance and the power of an imaginative poet in the life of distressed humanity.
The poet compares the Skylark hidden in the intense light of the sun to an inspired, sensitive poet; he sings sweet and melodious song spontaneously, living in the bright world of his own ideal and fills the sky like the poet who absorbed in his own great thoughts sings his poetry. And as a great poet’s songs are the spontaneous overflow of his thoughtful soul, in a similar way, the songs of the bird are too spontaneous as they are not sung at the command of somebody. These songs of the great poet, coming from his oppressed and distressed soul, are so stirring that they rouse the soul of mankind and move them to sympathies with those general hopes and fears of humanity which it had not formerly cared for. In this stanza, the poet too speaks of the power of poetry. Poetry can lift the veil from the hidden beauty of life and bind mankind in a beautiful chain of mutual sympathy and affection. This passage gives Shelley’s high conception of a poet.
(c)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.
Ans. The lines have been taken from the beautiful lyric “To a Skylark” by the great Romantic poet P. B. Shelley. Here the poet gives vent to his feelings and thoughts roused in him by the bird’s joyous song.
The poet, living amidst the fever and fret, oppression in this distressed world cannot call the Skylark a bird, rather he identifies the bird as a spirit for he finds no other living thing that could resemble the bird mostly in its spontaneity, in its outpouring such joyous and all pervading song. So, as in the first stanza “a blithe spirit”, he calls the bird a spirit. Whatever the lark be, bird or spirit, the poet is eager to learn what his thoughts are, the thoughts that inspire the bird to sing such joyous songs. The music produced by the Skylark is full of rapturous joy which seems to have a divine quality. Love and wine are regarded as sources of inspiration to poets. But even these can not inspire him to sing like the lark. The poet says, never have songs sung in praise of love or wine spared a poet to such ethereal delight on the rapturous song of the Skylark. The bird’s harmony is “a flood of rapture divine”—it is pure, clear and spontaneous.
(d) 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.
Ans. The lines have been taken from the beautiful lyric “To a Skylark” by the great Romantic poet P. B. Shelley. In these lines Shelley gives vent to his thought produced by the melodious song of the Skylark and also, at the same time, extols the bird’s song through a matchless comparison.
The Skylark for Shelley is not an earthly bird, but a spirit of joy and rapture. The poet listens to its song with rapt attention and say that he has never heard such a flood of “rapture divine”. Its song seems to be an endless outpouring of delight and the bird itself is an “unbodied joy”, a symbol of ideal beauty and pure joy. Shelley’s own search for ideal love and happiness is perfectly fulfilled by this bird of his poetic creation. Hence the wedding songs or chants of victory which could very well be expected to be full of unalloyed joy and delight are hollow and meaningless when compared with the song of the skylark. The poet says that even the sweetest earthly music is but an empty “vaunt” when compared to the joyous rapture of the Skylark. Earthly music, however sweet, is imperfect because there is some hidden want in it, while the Skylark’s song is perfect in its joyousness and leaves us completely satisfied.
(e) 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.
Ans. The lines have been taken from the beautiful lyric “To a Skylark” by the great Romantic poet P. B. Shelley. Here the poet lauds and praises the pure, unmixed, ethereal song of the bird which never flags. The poet also draws a sharp contrast between human life and the bird’s life that comes out of his oppressed and distressed soul.
The bird feels exquisitely happy while it sings for no languor or fatigue can effect the lark; it is a tireless singer of joyousness. Nor does the Skylark ever experience a feeling of the faintest irritation or annoyance. The Skylark does not experience the disillusionment or disgust which human beings invariably experience after an excessive enjoyment of the pleasures of love, as on earth love undergoes, with the passage of time, insipidity and cloying. The Skylark does enjoy the pleasures of love, but in its case the feeling of disillusionment or disgust does not occur. The distinctive contrast between human love and that of the Skylark is evident here; while the Skylark, being free from the satiety or boredom of love, sips its pleasures fully, the miserable human being only enjoys for the time being and then is destined to have the bitter experience of its bitterness, its surfeit and its feeling of disgust.
(f) 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.
Ans. The lines have been taken from the beautiful lyric “To a Skylark” by the great Romantic poet P. B. Shelley. This passage is the outcome of a distressed and much oppressed soul which has sucked boundless bitterness of the world. In these lines, the poet, in a vivid manner, describes the precarious condition of men on this earth and also their sad lot.
The life of human beings is full of disappointments and frustrations. Human beings aspire and long but those aspirations and longings remain unfulfilled. Man is a creature that looks “before and aft er” and his happiness is frequently marred by memories of past afflictions and sorrows, and the painful uncertainty of what is to come in the future. Man is subject to wariness and satiety and he can never enjoy happiness perennially. Human life is subject to recurrent spells of frustration and pain. Earthly joys are temporary and fade away into nothingness after sometime. There is an element of pain mingled even with our most genuine laughter. Even the sincerest of our delights has a touch of sadness in it and our most touching songs are those that unfold the tragedies of life. In contrast to miserable hum an life, the Skylark’s life is free from all sorts of fever, fret, bitterness, sorrow, pain, disgust of life on earth.
(g) 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.
Ans. The lines have been taken from the beautiful lyric “To a Skylark” by the great Romantic poet P. B. Shelley. In these lines the poet unfolds his intense desire and lofty aspiration to get inspiration from the heavenly melodies of the Skylark.
Hearing the pure ecstatic music of the Skylark the poet feels that he has never heard such a flood of “rapture divine”. Its song seems to the poet to be an endless outpouring of delight, and the bird itself is an “unbodied joy”. He wishes that if the bird could communicate to the heart of the poet half of its joy, the poet would have then a fine frenzy of inspiration and would pour forth rapturous songs of melody. Then such a maddening music, sweet and delightful, would flow from his lips that he would hold the world, which is now indifferent to his songs, turning a deaf ear to his idealism and thoughts of reform and emancipation, spell-bound, as he himself is listening to the bird’s song with rapt attention. What Shelley means to say is that his awareness of the tragedy of human life makes it impossible for him to write poems of rapturous joys that could easily draw the attention of people. All that Shelley needs is the feeling of ecstasy which the Skylark experiences.