To a Skylark

- 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

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?

Adonais, 49-52, [Go thou to Rome]

                  49

    Go thou to Rome,—at once the Paradise,
    The grave, the city, and the wilderness;
    And where its wrecks like shattered mountains rise,
    And flowering weeds, and fragrant copses dress
    The bones of Desolation's nakedness
    Pass, till the spirit of the spot shall lead
    Thy footsteps to a slope of green access
    Where, like an infant's smile, over the dead
A light of laughing flowers along the grass is spread;

                  50
				  
    And gray walls moulder round, on which dull Time
    Feeds, like slow fire upon a hoary brand;
    And one keen pyramid with wedge sublime,
    Pavilioning the dust of him who planned
    This refuge for his memory, doth stand
    Like flame transformed to marble; and beneath,
    A field is spread, on which a newer band
    Have pitched in Heaven's smile their camp of death,
Welcoming him we lose with scarce extinguished breath.

                  51
				  
    Here pause: these graves are all too young as yet
    To have outgrown the sorrow which consigned
    Its charge to each; and if the seal is set,
    Here, on one fountain of a mourning mind,
    Break it not thou! too surely shalt thou find
    Thine own well full, if thou returnest home,
    Of tears and gall. From the world's bitter wind
    Seek shelter in the shadow of the tomb.
What Adonais is, why fear we to become?

                  52
				  
    The One remains, the many change and pass;
    Heaven's light forever shines, Earth's shadows fly;
    Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass,
    Stains the white radiance of Eternity,
    Until Death tramples it to fragments.—Die,
    If thou wouldst be with that which thou dost seek!
    Follow where all is fled!—Rome's azure sky,
    Flowers, ruins, statues, music, words, are weak
The glory they transfuse with fitting truth to speak.

On the Medusa of Leonardo Da Vinci in the Florentine Gallery

It lieth, gazing on the midnight sky, 
  Upon the cloudy mountain peak supine;  
Below, far lands are seen tremblingly; 
  Its horror and its beauty are divine. 
Upon its lips and eyelids seems to lie 
  Loveliness like a shadow, from which shrine,  
Fiery and lurid, struggling underneath,  
The agonies of anguish and of death. 
 
Yet it is less the horror than the grace  
  Which turns the gazer's spirit into stone;
Whereon the lineaments of that dead face  
  Are graven, till the characters be grown  
Into itself, and thought no more can trace; 
  'Tis the melodious hue of beauty thrown  
Athwart the darkness and the glare of pain,
Which humanize and harmonize the strain. 
 
And from its head as from one body grow, 
  As [   ] grass out of a watery rock, 
Hairs which are vipers, and they curl and flow  
  And their long tangles in each other lock,
And with unending involutions shew  
  Their mailed radiance, as it were to mock  
The torture and the death within, and saw  
The solid air with many a ragged jaw. 
 
And from a stone beside, a poisonous eft
  Peeps idly into those Gorgonian eyes; 
Whilst in the air a ghastly bat, bereft  
  Of sense, has flitted with a mad surprise  
Out of the cave this hideous light had cleft, 
  And he comes hastening like a moth that hies
After a taper; and the midnight sky  
Flares, a light more dread than obscurity. 
 
'Tis the tempestuous loveliness of terror;  
  For from the serpents gleams a brazen glare  
Kindled by that inextricable error,
  Which makes a thrilling vapour of the air  
Become a [ ] and ever-shifting mirror  
  Of all the beauty and the terror there— 
A woman's countenance, with serpent locks, 
Gazing in death on heaven from those wet rocks.