Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of English Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.
Percy Bysshe Shelley. 1792–1822
608. To a Skylark
      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 light'ning 
        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 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 aërial 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 those heavy-wingèd 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 chant, 
      Match'd with thine would be all 
        But an empty vaunt— 
A thin 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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