Verse > Anthologies > Harvard Classics > English Poetry II: From Collins to Fitzgerald
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   English Poetry II: From Collins to Fitzgerald.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
501. 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        5
 
    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.        10
 
    In the golden lightning
      Of the sunken sun
    O’er which clouds are brightening,
      Thou dost float and run,
Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun.        15
 
    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:        20
 
    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.        25
 
    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 overflow’d.        30
 
    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.        35
 
    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:        40
 
    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:        45
 
    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:        50
 
    Like a rose embower’d
      In its own green leaves,
    By warm winds deflower’d,
      Till the scent it gives
Makes faint with too much sweet these heavy-winged thieves.        55
 
    Sound of vernal showers
      On the twinkling grass,
    Rain-awaken’d flowers,
      All that ever was
Joyous, and clear, and fresh, thy music doth surpass.        60
 
    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.        65
 
    Chorus hymeneal
      Or triumphal chaunt
    Match’d with thine, would be all
      But an empty vaunt—
A thing wherein we feel there is some hidden want.        70
 
    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?        75
 
    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.        80
 
    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?        85
 
    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.        90
 
    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.        95
 
    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!        100
 
    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!        105
 

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