Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. IV. Wordsworth to Rossetti
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. IV. The Nineteenth Century: Wordsworth to Rossetti
To a Skylark
By 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 bright’ning,
            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 overflowed.        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 aërial hue
Among the flowers and grass which screen it from the view:        50
          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.        55
          Sound of vernal showers
            On the twinkling grass,
          Rain-awakened 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,
          Matched 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.

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