Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Georgian Verse
William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Georgian Verse.  1909.
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 brightning,
    Thou dost float and run;
Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun.        15
  The pale purple even
    Melt 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 chant,
  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 field, 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 would listen then, as I am listening now.        105

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