by: Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

      AIL to thee, blithe Spirit!
      Bird thou never wert,
      That from Heaven, or near it,
      Pourest thy full heart
      In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.
      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.
      In the golden lightning
      Of the sunken sun,
      O'er which clouds are bright'ning,
      Thou dost float and run;
      Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun.
      The pale purple even
      Melts around thy flight;
      Like a star of Heaven,
      In the broad daylight
      Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight,
      Keen as are the arrows
      Of that silver sphere
      Whose intense lamp narrows
      In the white dawn clear
      Until we hardly see -- we feel, that it is there.
      All the earth and air
      With thy voice is loud,
      As, when night is bare,
      From one lonely cloud
      The moon rains out her beams, and Heaven is overflowed.
      What thou art we know not;
      What is most like thee?
      From rainbow clouds there flow not
      Drops so bright to see
      As from thy presence showers a rain of melody.
      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:
      Like a high-born maiden
      In a palace tower,
      Soothing her love-laden
      Soul in secret hour
      With music sweet as love, which overflows her bower:
      Like a glow-worm golden
      In a dell of dew,
      Scattering unbeholden
      Its aërial hue
      Among the flowers and grass, which screen it from the view:
      Like a rose embowered
      In its own green leaves,
      By warm winds deflowered,
      Till the scent it gives
      Makes faint with too much sweet these heavy-wingèd thieves.
      Sound of vernal showers
      On the twinkling grass,
      Rain-awakened flowers,
      All that ever was,
      Joyous, and clear, and fresh, thy music doth surpass:
      Teach us, Sprite or Bird,
      What sweet thoughts are thine:
      I have never heard
      Praise of love or wine
      That panted forth a flood of rapture so divine.
      Chorus Hymeneal,
      Or triumphal chant,
      Matched with thine would be all
      But an empty vaunt,
      A thing wherein we feel there is some hidden want.
      What objects are the fountains
      Of thy happy strain?
      What fields, or waves, or mountains?
      What shapes of sky or plain?
      What love of thine own kind? what ignorance of pain?
      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.
      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?
      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.
      Yet, if we could scorn
      Hate, and pride, and fear;
      If we were things born
      Not to shed a tear,
      I know not how thy joy we ever should come near.
      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!
      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.

'To a Skylark' is reprinted from English Poems. Ed. Edward Chauncey Baldwin. New York: American Book Company, 1908.




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