Shelley’s superiority “To a Skylark”
Q.S. Comment on Shelley’s presentation of, attitude to, the bird in his poem “To a Skylark”.
How does Shelley idealize the Skylark in his poem “To a Skylark”?
How does Shelley establish the superiority of the Skylark in his poem “To a Skylark”?
How does Shelley idealize the songs of the Skylark iii his poem “To a Skylark”?
Ans. Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “To a Skylark” is about a skylark, a miniscule bird that is famous for its song. Shelley idealizes the bird and compares it to many different beautiful things to show that the skylark is far more superior to them.
Shelley begins with exclamation with, ‘Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!’. This could suggest that the skylark is being used as a metaphor. This is strongly enforced by the second line of, ‘Bird thou never wert’, suggesting that the bird is a spirit. The next line ‘purest thy full heart’ illustrates the huge amount of music the lark brings. This is also shown in the sixth stanza with the line, ‘The moon rains out her beams, and Heaven is overflowed’. This line means that the amount of voice and song that the lark has can be compared with the amount of moon light there is.
Shelley presents the skylark as superior to every earthly object. It is ‘Like a star of Heaven’ and is superior to Earth and unseen ‘In the broad daylight’. The skylark with its melodious song is a mystery to the poet. The mystery that surrounds the bird makes Shelley puts forward the question: “What thou art we know not;/ What is most like thee?” He also tells about his point of admiration for the bird. He comments that the rain of melody flowing out of the song of the skylark is brighte; than drops of rain poured from rainbow cloud: “From rainbow clouds there flow not! Drops so bright to see! As from thy presence showers a rain of melody.” The poet then goes on to present the bird through a series of comparisons or similes. The bird has been beautifully compared to a poet hidden in the light of thought, to a highborn maiden in a palace tower, to a glow-worm golden in a deli of dew, and to a rose embowered in its own green leaves.
But the comparisons are not enough to describe the beauty and pre-eminence of the bird. To Shelley, the skylark is an immortal being symbolizing illimitable beauty. Shelley idealizes the skylark in the following lines:
“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.”
Like Keats’s nightingale, Shelley’s skylark is free from ‘the weariness, the fever and the fret’ that plague human beings. The feelings of weariness never disturb the joy experienced by the skylark. The feelings of trouble and dissatisfaction do not touch the heart of the bird. Its joy is unflagging and undisturbed by troubles and anxieties. The joy and happiness of man are imperfect but those of the skylark are perfect.
In “To a Skylark”, Shelley subjectively treats the bird. He etherealizes the skylark into a spirit — a spirit of joy. To him, it is not a bird of flesh and blood but ‘a blithe Spirit’, an ‘unbodied joy whose race is just begun’. He idealizes the bird to such an extent that he tells that more than the delightful music of the earthly people or the wisdom stored in books the lark’s music is a source of inspiration to the port:
“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!”
The skylark is a ‘scorner of the ground’. Its music is perfect embodiment of beauty and joy and hence an endless source of inspiration for the poet. Being overwhelmed by the lark’s song Shelley implores the bird to inspire him with its joy and happiness:
“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.”
Shelley is confident that if he could get the happiness and joy of the skylark in his heart, he would produce such fine poetry of deep inspiration that the people in the world would listen to him with rapt attention.
In “To a Skylark”, Shelley idealizes the bird and makes it a symbol of eternal joy and beauty. He presents it as a spirit, not as a bird of flesh and blood. His treatment of the bird is quite subjective.