Short question on “To a Skylark”

Short question on “To a Skylark”

Q.1. What is the theme/ central idea of the poem “To a Skylark” by Percy Bysshe Shelley?

Ans.  Percy Bysshe Shelley’s celebrated poem “To a Skylark” is abut a skylark, a miniscule bird that is famous for its song. In the poem, Shelley idealizes the bird and presents it as a unique creature. To Shelley, the skylark is an immortal being symbolizing illimitable beauty. Its music is perfect embodiment of beauty and joy and hence an endless source of inspiration for the poet. It is Shelley’s natural metaphor for pure poetic expression, the “harmonious madness” of pure inspiration. Thematically, the poem is about the power of nature to transform men’s lives, specifically through the medium of poetry.

In the broad daylight, the skylark, as it soars higher and higher, remains unseen, yet its song can still be heard, a song “unbodied joy” and “shrill delight”. Its song is “a flood of rapture so divine” that the poet cannot fully capture its essence. The joy expressed by the sky lark is beyond that which can be grasped by man, and the author speaks directly to the skylark in the latter stanzas, asking it to reveal to him the secret of its ethereal bliss so that he might then be able to share it with others through his words, and thus transform their lives.

Q.2. What figures of speech/ poetic devices are used in “To a Skylark” by Shelley?
Ans.
In “To a Skylark”, Shelley uses a number of poetic devices with a view to bringing his idea home. The poem opens with the trope figure of speech called an apostrophe in which an object or a nonhuman entity–in this case, the skylark–is spoken to as though it were a living human: “Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!” Personification occurs when the poet addresses the bird as if it were a human being. There follows in the fourth line of the opening stanza a synecdoche in “thy full heart”, wherein a physical object — “heart” is used to represent the whole, the skylark. A metonymy occurs in the fourth line of the second stanza: “The blue deep thou wingest”. The “blue deep” is a suggestive specific object that represents a larger whole or general concept: In this case the metonymy of “blue deep” is standing for the Earth’s physical atmosphere or sky. There are metaphors in the poem with the skylark being Shelley’s natural metaphor for poetic inspiration and expression. Shelley uses metaphors to describe the day’s light such as “arrows of the sun”. There are alliterations line express ions like “pale purple even”, “Of that silver sphere” or “Till the world is wrought”. The poem also abounds in Shelley’s use of similes to capture the joy and beauty of the bird and its song. There are similes in expression like “Like a cloud of fire”, “Like an unbodied joy”, “Like a glow-worm golden” or” Like a rose embower’d”.

Q.3. What figurative language is mostly/ frequently used in “To a Skylark” by Shelley?
Ans: Shelley’s “To a Skylark” is a celebrated romantic poem exhibiting the poet’s intense lyricism. In addition to the imaginative idealism, succession of splendid images, subjective treatment of nature, the poem is remarkable for its spontaneity. Shelley uses a variety of poetic devices in order to bring his idea home. However, the most important poetic device apart from some alliteration used in the poem is simile. The entire poem is built around a series of similes striking comparisons between the skylark and a host of other things primarily focused on the motifs of light and heat. The bird has been compared to a ‘cloud of fire’ that melts the evening around itself. It has been variously compared to a poet, a maiden atop her palace, a glow-worm and a rose embowered in its own green leaves. The importance of all these similes is to set in motion the dialectic between secrecy and disclosure in the poem. This relates to the unseen presence of the bird. The most essential point about all the similes is to draw attention to the absolute incomparability of the skylark. Shelley idealizes the bird and through these similes presents it as a mysterious spirit.

Q.4. What is Shelley’s idea/ conception of a poet and his function as revealed in his poem “To a Skylark”?
Ans. To Shelley, the poet is not a mere artist. He is a divine harp through which the Cosmic Power makes music for mankind. He is a reformer as well as a prophet spreading messages with a view to bringing about revolutionary changes in human history. He coin- poses verse not directed by people but of his own accord. This idea a poet and his function has got revealed in the poem “To a Skylark”. The poet, according to Shelley, remains unknown behind the light of his own thought but always pours out his heart of his own accord. He composes his poems spontaneously without being ordered by the people of the world, and the time comes when those people of the world who had paid no attention to his lofty messages, ultimately understand the thoughts of the poet and begin to sympathize with him:

“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:”

For Shelley, the poet is a reformer too. He is a prophet whose aim is to bring about revolutions through his poetic messages. This is why he implores the skylark, Shelley’s metaphor for poetic express ion, to inspire him with its joy and happiness so that the “harmonious madness” flows from his lips making the world listen to him with rapt attention.

Q.5. How does Shelley relate the skylark’s song to his
own
efforts to write poetry in “To a Skylark”?
Ans: In “To a Skylark”, the skylark is the symbol of eternal joy and beauty. It is Shelley’s metaphor for poetic expression. The poet idealizes the bird and describes the bird and its song through a series of similes. But he realizes the futility of capturing the bird’s superiority through comparisons because none of the images he devises, such as comparing the bird to a rainbow cloud or a glowworm is sufficient to convey the sheer, ecstatic joy that he feels when he listens to its song. It is this joy, the ‘sweet thoughts’ of the bird that Shelley wants to learn or internalize because the skylark’s joy is different from the joy felt by humans. -Learning how to capture such joy will enable him to incorporate such a feeling into his poetry and compose such melodious verses that the world around him would listen to him with rapt attention:

“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 thus recognizes what is special about the skylark’s song and speculates on what poetic success he would achieve if the ‘sweet thoughts’ of the bird are united with his poetic talent. He is of the idea that incorporating the power in nature into his poetry would make him write poetry as effective, as harmonious yet mad as the bird’s song.

Q.6. Why does Shelley call! address the skylark a& “blithe Spirit” 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. In the poem, Shelley idealizes the bird and presents it as a unique creature. To Shelley, the skylark is an immortal being symbolizing illimitable beauty. Its music is perfect embodiment of beauty and joy and hence an endless source of inspiration for the poet. At the very outset of the poem, Shelley calls the bird a “blithe Spirit”.

The word “blithe” is an Old English word literally meaning ‘care free, happy and lighthearted’ and ‘Spirit’ means “incorporeal supernatural being”. Shelley calls the bird a ‘Spirit’ because it is rarely visible and only its melodious song is heard by the people. The sweet song of the skylark reveals to Shelley that unlike ordinary mortals it is absolutely carefree. The skylark symbolizes the free soul. It, according to Shelley’s vision, is ignorant of the sufferings and cares of this world. By saluting the skylark as ‘blithe Spirit’ Shelley is trying to represent the bird as an abstract quality of pure joy.

Q.7. How is the skylark presented in Shelley’s poem “To a Skylark”?
Ans: Shelley’s “To a Skylark” is about a miniscule bird whose melodious song s”ts off his poetic sensibilities. He calls the bird a “blithe Spirit” which sings in “profuse strains of unpremeditated art”. The bird is thus compared to an unearthly, heaven-connected event, not merely a physical bird. It is “Like a cloud of fire” and dwelling in “the golden lightning” the bird is free and unfettered, “an unbodied joy whose race is just begun”. The poet then indulges in a series of similes with a view to capturing the extraordinary nature of this singing bird. He brings in a series of similes striking comparisons between the skylark and a host of other things primarily focused on the motifs of light and heat. The bird has been compared to a ‘cloud of fire’ that melts the evening around itself. It has been variously compared to a poet, a maiden atop her palace, a glow-worm and a rose embowered in its own green leaves. But he soon realizes the futility of capturing the bird’s superiority through comparisons because none of the images is sufficient to convey the sheer, ecstatic joy that he feels when he listens to its song. Shelley idealizes the skylark and presents it as a unique creature. To him, the skylark is an immortal being symbolizing illimitable beauty. Its music is perfect embodiment of beauty and joy and hence an endless source of inspiration for the poet. It is Shelley’s natural metaphor for pure poetic expression, the “harmonious madness” of pure inspiration

Q.8. What are the various elements in the Skylark’s song in Shelley’s poem “To a Skylark”?
Ans. Shelley idealizes the bird and compares it to many different beautiful things to show that the skylark is far more superior to them. To Shelley, the skylark is a ‘blithe Spirit’ which sings ‘full throat” in “Profuse strains of unmediated art”. The bird is unseen in the dazzling daylight. The invisibility of the bird has invested it with an element of mystery in the eye of the poet. 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?” An important aspect of the bird’s song is its purity and joyousness. The joy of the bird is pure and unmixed. The song of the bird is divine to the poet. The poet tells “I have never heard/ Praise of love or wine! That panted forth a flood of rapture so divine.” Shelley is fascinated by the sweet and happy thoughts of the bird, which provide inspiration to its song. The poet wonders at the source of such unlimited ecstasy — “the fountains of thy happy strain”. Shelley also points out that more than the delightful music of the earthly people or the wisdom stored in the books the lark’s music is source of inspiration to the poet. The music of the skylark is perfect embodiment of beauty and joy and hence an endless source of inspiration for the poet.

Q.9. How does Shelley establish the superiority of the Sky lark’s song to the songs of man?
Ans: The melodious song of the skylark is superior to all songs of man. Sensuous enjoyment and ecstasy of love are the two powerful sources of inspiration to human poetry. Love songs and songs in praise of wine are the sweetest of human songs. But these are surpassed by the skylark’s song: “I have never heard/ Praise of love or wine /That panted forth a flood of rapture so divine.” Again, wedding songs and songs in celebration of victory are nothing compared to the song of the skylark. In these earthly songs we always feel the absence of perfection. The song of the skylark is pierced with a keen sense of joyousness. It has no sense of languor and annoyance. It knows the mystery of life and death. Hence, the song of the bird is clear, fresh and melodious — “thy notes flow in such a crystal stream”. Human songs are also characterized by inherent sadness. Man’s sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thoughts – “Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.” But the skylark is eternally joyous and its song is the expression of ideal joy and beauty. Shelley also points put that more than the delightful music of the earthly people or the wisdom stored in the books the lark’s music is source of inspiration to the poet:

“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 skill of singing enjoyed by the skylark is greater than and superior to that of the poet.

Q.10. How does Shelley idealize the bird in his poem “To a Skylark”?

Ans. Shelley’s “To a Skylark” is about a skylark, a miniscule bird that is famous for its song. To Shelley, the skylark is a ‘blithe Spirit’ which sings ‘full throat” in “Profuse strains of unmediated art’. 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?” 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. 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.

Q.11. How does Shelley establish the superiority of the skylark over man in his poem “To a Skylark”?
Ans: The skylark in Shelley’s “To a Skylark” is a happy and joyful singing bird free from “the weariness, the fever and the fret” that are quite common in human life. In contrast to the joyful and happy life of the skylark, the life of human beings on the earth is sorrowful and miserable. Neither the past nor the future holds out any charm to human beings. The bird has no regret for the past, no longing for the future. Man is always unhappy because he is never satisfied with his lot. Man loves but his love brings bitterness when it is satisfied. But the bird does not know love’s satiety. Man is afraid of death. He has no clear idea of what is there after death. The bird has the knowledge of the mystery of life and death. The bird is a philosopher who has an insight into deeper things of life: “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?” Whereas the bird’s life is marked by “clear keen joyance”, the life of man is characterized by sorrow and misery. The miserable lot of human beings is given poignant expression in the following lines:

“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.”

Q.12. What picture of human life do you get in Shelley’s poem “To a Skylark”?
Ans. In Shelley’s celebrated poem “To a Skylark” we get a pessimistic picture of human life. The joyful and happy life of the skylark is contrasted with miserable human existence on earth. Man is always unhappy because he is never satisfied with his lot. Man loves but his love brings bitterness when it is satisfied. Again, man is afraid of death. He has no clear idea of what is there after death. The bird has the knowledge of the mystery of life and death. Whereas the bird’s life is marked by “clear keen joyance”, the life of man is characterized by sorrow and misery. The miserable lot of human beings is given poignant expression in the following lines:

“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.”

Neither the past nor the future holds out any charm to human beings. The remembrance of the past with its woeful looking makes human beings sorrowful. The future also does not hold out any hope of cheerfulness. Even in the sincerest laughter of man, there is the hidden feeling of pain. The sweetest songs are those which give utterance to saddest thought. Shelley gives a very pessimistic picture of human life.

Q..13. “The scorner of the ground” about whom is this said? Why does the poet describe it as the ‘scorner of the ground’?
Ans: In the celebrated poem “To a Skylark”, Shelley calls the skylark ‘the scorner of the ground’. He describes the singing bird as the scorner of the ground because it goes upward and sings there:
“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.” The skylark sings in the ‘golden lighting’ of the sunken sun and sings and soars throughout the whole sky. Its song is heard, but it remains invisible in the broad daylight. Shelley describes the bird through a series of images. It is compared to a poet hidden in the originality of thought, to an aristocratic lady sitting in the tower of a castle and singing. Then the skylark is compared to natural objects like the glow-worm which remains hidden in the grasses and to a rose concealed in a bower bit whose fragrance is enjoyed. Through all these unearthly and unfamiliar images, Shelley describes the bird. The skylark is a spirit — ‘blithe Spirit’; it is an ideal. It does not come down to the earth — it loves to soar in the sky. Hence, Shelley thinks that the skylark despises the ground.

 

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