Shelley’s use of imagery “To a Skylark”
Q . Comment on Shelley’s use of imagery in his poem “To a Skylark”.
Ans. Percy Bysshe Shelley’s celebrated poem “To a Skylark” is about a skylark, a miniscule bird that is famous for its song. The poet comp ares the skylark to many different beautiful things to show that the skylark is far more superior to them. The vivid use of imagery throughout the poem attracts the reader’s interest and conveys the poet’s creativity. The poem is packed with imagery which not only shows its uniqueness but also the intensity and sophistication of the poet.
“To a Skylark” establishes somewhat supernatural atmosphere and the diction used aids this eerie ambience. Shelley addresses the skylark as “blithe Spirit” rather than a bird, for its song comes from Heaven, and from its full heart pour “profuse strains of unpremeditated art”. The skylark flies higher and higher, “like a cloud of fire” in the blue sky, singing as it flies. Shelley manipulates imagery well to show the actions of the skylark. The various beautiful stanzas of the poem are those in which the bird is compared to different objects of nature and life. The superiority of the bird’s song is brought home in a series of vivid images.
The bird is “Like a star of Heaven”, unseen in broad daylight. But it declares its presence through its loud song of joy. It is compared to the moon that in the morning is obscured by the light of the sun. The poet compares the skylark to the moon and its music to the beams 0 the moon. Just as the beams of the moon flood the sky with light, similarly the music of the skylark floods the earth with its melody.
The invisible skylark is compared to a poet immersed in the light of his own thoughts:
“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:”
The skylark is like an aristocratic maiden of the mediaeval world of romance. The heart of the maiden is filled with the pang of separation because her lover is away. She soothes her love-sick heart by her sweet melody which fills her chamber. In the same way, the skylark pours out the feeling of love in her heart through her songs which fills the earth.
The poet compares the invisible skylark to the golden glow-worm which diffuses its light in the valley which is moist-with dew-drops, while remaining itself unseen. The glow-worm is hidden from sight, though its golden light is seen.
The skylark is like a rose that scatters perfume but one cannot see the rose as it is concealed in the thick foliage. The winds take away the fragrance of the flower and permeate the whole atmosphere. In the same way, the melody of the unseen skylark overflows the world beneath:
“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
The images used by Shelley are fresh, delicate and vivid and suggest the symbolic character of the skylark. This richness of imagery is one of the distinctive qualities of “To a Skylark”. The rapid succession of images enchants the reader. The richness of images alludes to Shelley’s imaginative genius, and the gift for coining similes and metaphors for heightening the effect of the poem.