Summary and Critical Appreciation of To a Skylark by P.B.Shelley

Summary of To a Skylark:

P.B.Shelley in his poem To a Skylark describes the skylark, its flight, and its song. The skylark seems to him a spirit of joy. The bird springs from the earth. But it always flies higher and higher. It sings and soars at the same time. It gives out a ceaseless flow of sweet melody from its lofty, airy station. The bird remains invisible always. But its presence is felt through its enchanting song. Its charming melody fills the whole place. He greets the skylark as a spirit divine and not as a physical creature. His emphasis is on the incorporeal existence of the bird and the divine inspiration that breathes in its song.

The poet next tries to determine the nature of the skylark. He draws a number of pictures to describe the bird and its song. He compares the skylark to a poet, an aristocratic virgin, a glow worm, and a rose. In his assertion, there is no natural sight or sound as charming as the song of the skylark. The poet tries to measure the source of the inspiration of the bird’s song. The song of the skylark is superior to all the songs of humanity. There is no sense of decay or disgust in it. In fact, the bird’s song is far sweeter than all harmonious melodies. It is far wiser than all the treasures of human knowledge. Lastly, the poet seeks inspiration, at least partially, from the
bird in order. to charm the world with his song.

Central Thought of this poem:

The subject-matter of To a Skylark’ is the glorification of a little bird of nature, the skylark. Shelley considers the bird a spirit divine. He finds in it the greatest inspiration for human life. The skylark possesses all that man has not. It is gifted with a penetrating insight into the mystery of life and death. It is a stranger to the human feelings of frustration and pain. It bears the very spirit of joy and hope, which man so badly misses in his life. Consequently, no song of man can come near the joyous melody of the bird. The poet seeks this joyous spirit of the skylark in order to inspirit humanity into a fearless, hopeful, and happy existence. He is definite to spell and charm the human world if inspirited with half the joy of the bird.

Critical Estimate of To a Skylark

Shelley wrote “To a Skylark’ in the full maturity of his powers. He was then twenty-eight years old. The poem marks the characteristic features of Shelley’s poetic genius and ranks high among his poems. Shelley, perhaps, stands as the most enchanting and histrionic lyricist among the poets of the early nineteenth century. To many
readers and critics, Shelley’s genius seems primarily lyrical. To a Skylark’ is one of Shelley’s most significant lyrics.

“To a Skylark’ is a poem about the song of a far off, almost unseen bird. The sweet melody of the bird provides the poet with profound thoughts and feelings. The bird becomes the ideal of life. It becomes the sublime goal of man’s aspiration. To Shelley, the skylark is not merely a gifted songster, but a great philosopher, preacher. It is nothing of flesh and blood. It is an ‘unbodied joy’,

Shelley’s idealization of the bird may appear unreal to many. In fact, his description of the bird and its flight is rather hyperbolical all through. It is not quite true to take the skylark as remaining always out of sight. Shelley’s claim about the greatness of the bird also seems rather capricious. Indeed, his skylark is hardly real. It is rather an embodiment of his idealistic imagination.

Nevertheless, To a Skylark is a serious poem. It is a great criticism of human life. The unhappiness of human life leads the poet to find in the bird the sublime goal of all human aspirations and endeavors. The poem becomes as it were the very expression of the lofty idealism of Shelley. Herein is found the best and happiest ideal of a noble and humanitarian visionary. The poem contains grave matters and inspires men with a lofty message of joy and hope.

The poem is also a marvel of Shelley’s technique. It is rich both in imagery and music. A series of images is presented by the poet with wonderful vividness. Beauty and mystery are perfectly blended in those images. Shelley’s rhythms most nearly approach to the condition of music here. The song of the invisible skylark becomes thrilling through the more thrilling music of the human poet.

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