To a Skylark

Percy Bysshe Shelley - 1792-1822
    Hail 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 aerial 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-winged 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 chaunt
    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!

More by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Ozymandias

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."

To the Moon [fragment]

   Art thou pale for weariness
Of climbing Heaven, and gazing on the earth,
   Wandering companionless
Among the stars that have a different birth,--
And ever changing, like a joyless eye
That finds no object worth its constancy?

Ode to the West Wind

I
O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The wingèd seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow

Her clarion o'er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:

Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and Preserver; hear, O hear!
 
II
Thou on whose stream, 'mid the steep sky's commotion,
Loose clouds like Earth's decaying leaves are shed,
Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean,

Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread
On the blue surface of thine airy surge,
Like the bright hair uplifted from the head

Of some fierce Maenad, even from the dim verge
Of the horizon to the zenith's height,
The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge

Of the dying year, to which this closing night
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre
Vaulted with all thy congregated might

Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere
Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: O hear!
 
III
Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams
The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,
Lulled by the coil of his crystalline streams,

Beside a pumice isle in Baiae's bay,
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
Quivering within the wave's intenser day,

All overgrown with azure moss and flowers
So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou
For whose path the Atlantic's level powers

Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below
The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear
The sapless foliage of the ocean, know

Thy voice, and suddenly grow grey with fear,
And tremble and despoil themselves: O hear!
 
IV
If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;
If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;
A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share

The impulse of thy strength, only less free
Than thou, O Uncontrollable! If even
I were as in my boyhood, and could be

The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven,
As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed
Scarce seemed a vision; I would ne'er have striven

As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
Oh! lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!

A heavy weight of hours has chained and bowed
One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud.
 
V
Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies

Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,

Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawakened Earth

The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?