Analysis of To a Skylark by Percy Bysshe Shelley

P.B. Shelley, one of the most revered romantic poets, endowed his poem “To a Skylark” with extravagant metaphors, pouring imagination, hints of mysticism and melancholia, reflectivity etc and made it a literary piece which perfectly exemplifies the spirit of Romanticism in poetry. From the very first line of the poem –

“Hail to thee, blithe spirit!

Bird thou never wert.”

Theme of the poem To a Skylark

The poet picks up the trend of romanticism to find poetic inspiration not in the classical muses but in the basic elements of nature like the joyful,  melody shower of the skylark. A romantic poet observes a unique strangeness in beauty which can only be perceived by a sharpened sensibility and a heightened imagination that Shelley had been gifted with. This is probably the reason why he looks upon the skylark as a divine spirit and not any ordinary bird; breaking all barriers of rationalization that stood against this theory. In doing so he showcased yet another trait of Romanticism which was to dismiss logic and reason over heart’s spontaneous overflow of emotions. Shelley has enveloped his poetic inspiration in a cloud of mystery by adding to its word-image a hint of supernaturalism. Since the poet cannot see the bird, the element of curiosity and mysticism is unmistakable in the poem which is another characteristic of the Romantic spirit. He has manifested this element by comparing the bird to a star of heaven in broad daylight and the sharp moon-rays invisible in the light of approaching dawn. The poet has decorated this piece of poetry with a series of mesmerizing imagery like the ones where he compares the skylark to a high born maiden singing song of love for her knight and a glow worm which spreads its golden hue hiding behind dense bushes.

“Like a glow-worm golden in a dell of dew,

Scattering unbeholden its aerial hue

Among the flower and grass, which screen it from the view.”


To a Skylark Poem Analysis

These rich imageries award picturesque beauty and capacity of wonder to the poem which makes it a strong Romantic poetry.

The song of the skylark heard by the poet on his trip to Italy triggered in him a series of emotions. He got reminded of how different the bird’s songs were from that of the mortals. The lark’s songs were a source of divine happiness whereas the sweetest songs of humans spoke of pain.

“We look before and after and pine for what is not,

Our sincerest laughter with some pain is fraught”

By adding this observation to his piece of poetry, Shelly not only adds a hint of melancholia but also involves the common man in his poem which is what Romanticism advocated for. This also shows the poet’s subjectivity as he directly records his own feelings and emotions without putting them through any test of reason, giving his readers ample room for introspection which further strengthens the spirit of Romanticism strongly discernible in the poem. Last but not the least Shelley has done away with the heroic couplet and poetic diction in Skylark and opted for simple verse form which the common masses could connect to making it one of the strongest examples of the kind of poetry which was written in the Romantic age of 19th Century.

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