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Compare and contrast Shelley's "To a skylark" to Keats' "Ode to the Westwind".

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ashi | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted May 21, 2009 at 9:59 PM via web

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Compare and contrast Shelley's "To a skylark" to Keats' "Ode to the Westwind".


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pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 23, 2009 at 2:46 AM (Answer #1)

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Both of the poems "To a Skylark" and Ode to the West Wind" are by Percy Bysshe Shelley.  Both these poems celebrate an aspect of nature, a higher order of existence that the poet compares to man's limited life on the earth.  

In "To a Skylark," the poet hears the song of this beautiful unseen bird who sings in flight, adding a soundtrack to nature that draws the poet's attention to the majesty of the world around him.

"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." (Shelley)

In "Ode to the West Wind," the poet is considering the power of the west wind and contemplating the journey of the autumn leaves and how they travel through the air looking for a final resting place. Because of the power of the wind, they have the ability to roam the heavens and the earth before they lay down.

"Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere; 

Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh, hear!" (Shelley)

Shelley celebrates the power of the west wind, and desires to be a dead Autumn leaf, to experience the power and the freedom that it shares with the west wind.  

"If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear; 
If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee; 

A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share" (Shelley)

In To a Skylark" the poet beseeches the bird to teach him about the secrets of nature that he alone knows, and that the poet feels is communicated through his song.

 "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." (Shelley)

"Finally, the speaker asks the bird to share with him the secret of its special joy. The unbridled joy of this creature is unlike that felt by men, who know pleasure only in comparison to the pain and tragedy that are an integral part of human existence. Hence, when possessed of the skylark’s secret, the poet will be able to transform the lives of his readers and improve humankind;"

Both of these poems share the similarity of looking at the mysteries and majesty of nature to try to understand the life of mankind.  

In nature the poet searches for answers to questions that are difficult o answer.  He acknowledges that the power of nature possesses more knowledge and more important than man.  That, as a poet, he tries to harness this source of power through his poetry, and that poetry, like nature, and through the celebration of nature adds meaning to man's earthly life in a unique way.

 

 

 

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