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To a Skylark. By Percy Bysshe Shelley . Form. Twenty- one five-line stanzas Each stanza form The first four lines are trochaic trimeter . The fifth is in iambic hexameter, also known as an Alexandrine The rhyme scheme of each stanza is in the form ABABB. Why address a Skylark?.

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to a skylark

To a Skylark

By Percy Bysshe Shelley

slide2
Form

Twenty- one five-line stanzas

Each stanza form

  • The first four lines are trochaic trimeter.
  • The fifth is in iambic hexameter, also known as an Alexandrine

The rhyme scheme of each stanza is in the form ABABB.

why address a skylark
Why address a Skylark?
  • Classic poets used the analogue of the sweet song of a singing bird to the sweet words of the poet.
  • The extended apostrophe gives the sense of a prayer.
  • Classically religion uses invocations to begin services, these were originally called hymns.
  • Birds lend the ethereal beauty of song to poetry.
first s ix s tanzas summary
First Six Stanzas Summary
  • A skylark is addressed by the poet, who calls it a "blithe Spirit" rather than a bird, because its song emanates from Heaven. Out of its full heart pours "profuse strains of unpremeditated art".
  • The skylark ascends higher and higher in the blue sky, "like a cloud of fire", singing as it ascends.
  • In the "golden lightning" of the sun, it floats and runs, like "an unbodied joy".
  • As the skylark flies higher and higher, the poet loses sight of it, but is still able to hear its "shrill delight",
  • which comes down as keenly as moonbeams in the "white dawn", which can be felt even when they are not seen.
  • The earth and air ring with the skylark's voice, just as Heaven overflows with moonbeams when the moon shines out from behind "a lonely cloud".
slide5

The speaker points out the Bird’s song is other worldly.

  • Poetry is inspired.
  • Similes featured are enhanced by the alliteration: “sunken sun”

“pale purple”

“silver sphere”

  • Inversion (anastrophe) “Keen as are the arrows”
stanzas seven thru twelve summary
Stanzas Seven thru Twelve Summary
  • The poet states that no one knows what the skylark is, for it is unique: even "rainbow clouds" do not rain as brightly as the shower of melody that pours from the skylark.
  • The bird is "like a poet hidden / In the light of thought", able to make the world experience "sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not".
  • It is like a lonely maiden in a palace tower, who uses her song to soothe her lovelorn soul.
  • It is like a golden glow-worm, scattering light among the flowers and grass in which it is hidden.
  • It is like a rose embowered in its own green leaves, whose scent is blown by the wind until the bees are faint with "too much sweet".
  • The skylark's song surpasses "all that ever was, / Joyous and clear and fresh", whether the rain falling on the "twinkling grass" or the flowers the rain awakens.
similes
Similes
  • Bird is compared to the poet directly.
  • Bird is compared to a love lorn maiden
  • Bird is compared to a worm…one hidden in the ground
  • Bird is compared to the rose
  • Poet’s complaint…All poetic comparisons fall short!
stanzas thirteen thru seventeen
Stanzas Thirteen Thru Seventeen
  • Calling the skylark "Sprite or Bird", the poet implores it to reveal to him its "sweet thoughts", for he has never heard anyone or anything call up "a flood of rapture so divine".
  • Compared to the skylark's, any music would seem lacking.
  • What objects, the poet inquires, are "the fountains of thy happy strain"? Is it fields, waves, mountains, the sky, the plain, or "love of thine own kind" or "ignorance or pain"?
  • Pain and languor, the poet says, "never came near" the skylark: it loves, but has never known "love's sad satiety".
  • Of death, the skylark must know "things more true and deep" than mortals could dream. Otherwise, the poet asks, "How could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream?"
slide9
Turn
  • Speaker requests the Bird assist him in rapture so that he can captivate the reader as well as the bird’s song captivates.
  • Allusion to god of marriage
  • Rhetorical questions trying to understand what has inspired the bird
  • Remarks that bird lives in the “now”
  • Reiterates “Carpe Diem” aspect of life necessary for joy
stanzas eighteen thru twenty one
Stanzas Eighteen thru Twenty-one
  • For mortals, the experience of happiness is bound inextricably with the experience of sadness: dwelling upon memories and hopes for the future, mortal men "pine for what is not". The laughter of mankind is "fraught" with "some pain". Their "sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought".
  • But, the poet states, even if men could "scorn / Hate and pride and fear", and were born without the capacity to weep, he still does not know how they could ever approximate the joy expressed by the skylark.
  • Referring to the bird as a "scorner of the ground", he states that its music is better than all music and all poetry.
  • He asks the bird to teach him "half the gladness / That thy brain must know", for then he would overflow with "harmonious madness", and his song would be so beautiful that the world would listen to him, even as he is now listening to the skylark.
tone shift resolution
Tone Shift - Resolution
  • Recalls Shakespeare’s vision of death and dreams
  • Human condition – man dwells or has most drama in sadness
  • Notes that man needs pain to comprehend joy
  • Romantic poets fought against self-consciousness through the strength of imagination to heal.
  • Didactic Poem – teaches a lesson.