Percy Shelley's theme of joy in "To a Skylark"

Essay by mtmcgregHigh School, 12th gradeA, April 2007

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Percy B. Shelley's "To a Skylark" is a lighthearted poem that is ultimately concerned with a better society for the future of mankind. The skylark's song is incredibly sweet and pure because the bird never endures the sadness and pain of mortal suffering. The poem suggests that a brighter life exists beyond such misery. Shelley uses imagery to convey his theme of joy in "To a Skylark". He uses setting images, sound images, and object images to develop this theme.

Shelley first uses the imagery of the setting to develop his theme of joy. The gorgeous and vibrant colors of the sky surround the skylark as it flies freely and uninhibitedly. The skylark sings as it soars higher and higher like "a cloud of fire" (line 8) in the "golden lightning" (11) of the sun. The bird floats and runs as the sun brightens the surrounding clouds above (13).

Shelley refers to the skylark as an "an unbodied joy" (15) that appears like a "star of Heaven" (18) against the purple colored sky. According to Stewart Wilcox, these allusions suggest that the skylark has an "ethereal nature" (244). The beauty of the setting contributes to the joyful theme of the poem.

The next device Shelley uses to develop his theme of joy is sound imagery. The bird is a jubilant figure because of the beautiful music it composes. Shelley addresses the skylark as a "blithe Spirit" (1) rather than a bird because its song comes from Heaven in "profuse strains of unpremeditated art" (5). The skylark's music is like the sound of "vernal showers" (54) because it is "Joyous", "clear", and "fresh" (58). Shelly compares the music to a church hymnal or a "triumphal" chant (66-67). Wilcox believes that the skylark is a symbol of "exultation"...