Percy Shelley has passionate feeling about beauty and expression and this is documented in his poem “To a Skylark”. After a close reading of the poem, especially lines 61-105, and by examining the rhyme, meter, and tone, we will see the poem as unique, structurally and linguistically. And particularly see how the writer captures the reader’s attention, with his use of metaphors and excellent word choices, as he conveys themes of the poem to us through the skylark.
The skylark is free from all human error and complications, and as the poet listens to the song of the skylark, he is inspired to write the poem with the message of self perception and power of the mind and imagination. The form and structure of the poem is like a song. The flowing verse and diction have a lilt that advances the poet to greater heights of inspiration and natural poetic genius. The five line stanzas, all twenty one of them follow the same pattern. The first four lines are metered in trochaic trimester, the fifth in iambic hexameter, and each stanza has a simple rhyme scheme of ABABB.
Structurally, each verse makes a single observation about the skylark or looks at it in a new light, mainly the natural purity and divinity that it radiates, setting the poet free from all the anxieties of the world and become a free vessel like the skylark. The poet uses word choices with strong meaning, for instance, “Chorus hymeneal” (line 66) and “triumphal chaunt” (line 67), which make the reader visualise this religious, spiritual music the lark is producing. Heavenly music, that is without sin and pure, it is exultant and sacred.
The tone here is like a musical crescendo being reached as it gets louder and reaches the climax of the song. To the poet this is ecstasy, and he is extremely joyful, but in his world he can experience sadness, whereas the skylark “lovest – but ne’er knew love’s sad satiety” (Line 80). The bird is from the natural world and free from the sadness of the real world, it roams hidden by the flowers and grass singing this transfixing song that is spiritual and sincere. The bird is free from worry about death and the end of its life which makes it different from us mortals who are forever worrying and dwelling on the inevitability of death.
The poet gives us an optical presence of a ghostly form as he writes: “Scattering unbeholden…… among the flowers and grass that screen it from our view”, (Line 48) and it hides “like a rose embowered in its own leaves”. (Line 51). The skylark has a beauty of its own and is a librerated spirit, without with all the human worries. It is hidden as it flies high in the sky above the clouds, but most importantly, it has no one to answer to, or is not’beholden’, the author states to another, only the self.
The skylark is liberated and has no earthly failings, as he soars high above, higher to God, like he is on a heavenly plain. He inspires the poet as he sings, and the writer is experiencing a release from himself and the normal way he would live his life as he listens to the sweet song of the bird. He pleads: “Teach us. Sprite or Bird, What sweet thoughts are thine”, (Line 61). Clearly, the writer wants to learn from the skylark, and we can almost feel the divine joy the poet is experiencing, while he watches this bird or free spirit, with its extraordinary hypnotic presence, and learns how to be at peace with the self.
He asks the bird to teach him “Half the gladness that thy brain must know” (Line 101), for then he would pour out with “harmonious madness,” (Line 103), and in doing so, would make the world listen to his message. The words of wisdom would ring like a melody as it flows from his pen. Shelley’s skylark would bring the message of hope and the belief that through ‘poetry’, society can improve morally and spiritually.
Shelley is attempting to communicate a visual viewpoint to the reader through metaphors of nature, with the skylark being his natural metaphor for the unadulterated poetic expression that is flowing from the writer’s mind. Expertly, using nature and juxtaposing it with political freedom, and the purity of the mind, and ones self and spiritual well being. Shelley is educating the reader through the skylark, as in the human world men experience happiness, but also sadness, as they think back on memories and past experiences of life.
The poet wonders if they could ever imagine the joy expressed by the skylark. The human imagination works with the “skylark” to impose harmony on its melody and they become one, allowing the poet to write and create such melodious verse. Shelley has good claim to being one of the best poets of the Romantic period. His gift to write and commendable, unite nature with the self, to portray his messages of beauty, nature and political liberty. Shelley has a caring nature about the world and how society can improve ethically, and spiritually, through the reading of poetic verse.