Compare Shelley's "Ode to a Skylark" and Wordsworth's "Ode to A Skylark."

lit24 | Student


Shelley's ode "To a Skylark" was witten in 1820 when he was in Leghorn in Italy. Shelley compares the skylark to various objects in order to make  the readers understand as much as is possible the mysterious and beautiful bird, and its divine  music.

Some of the dazzlingly and exquistely beautiful objects to which it and its melodious voice are compared are:"blithe spirit," "a cloud of fire," "an unbodied joy," "a star of heaven," "moon beam," the bright colours of the rainbow, an 'unseen' poet, "a high-born maiden," "a glow-worm," "a rose," "sound of vernal showers," "crystal stream." It would be impossible to analyse all these images because of the restrictions on the word limit. However an analysis of one should serve the purpose.

The following lines capture the essence of the bird and reveal the central message of the poem: "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."

Shelley in his essay "Defense of Poetry" (written 1821 published 1840) remarks that poets are "the unacknowledged legislators of the world." That is, although the poets are never in the limelight they guide the destinies of a nation by voluntarily pronouncing profound truths which serve as moral guideposts to the common people. Similarly, the skylark also is rarely seen but its soulful melodious music serves to remind the people of the mysitcal beauties of Nature.

William Wordsworth's  "To the  Skylark" was written in Rydal Mount his house near Ambleside in the Lake District in the year 1828 and published in 1832. Wordsworth's "To The Skylark" is an ode in praise of a bird famous for certain unique qualities. The skylark true to its name spends most of its time flying high in the sky. This makes Wordsworth to wonder whether it does so because it hates the earth in which so much of unhappiness abounds. However, it never forgets to drop in silently as and when it pleases into its nest on the ground.

The skylark is a "daring warbler" which mounts to great heights in the open sky and sings lovingly to its mate which also inhabits the same open sky. However, the same  song is heard in the plain down below proudly asserting the fact that the beauty of its songs does not depend on the pleasant season of spring.

Wordsworth began the poem by addressing the skylark as a supernatural wandering singer and a "pilgrim of the sky" who wishes to have nothing to do with the cares of this world. But he concludes the poem by praising it for singing its melodious songs in broad  daylight - unlike the nightingale in the "shady wod" - high in the open sky which are heard by people down below on the earth. By doing so it is like the wise man who soars to great heights without losing sight of his bearings on the earth below.

Its obvious that both the poets are enthralled by the beauty of the skylark, but whereas Wordsworth is encouraged and consoled by the beauty of the bird  Shelley beckons the bird to fuel his political furnace:

"Type of the wise who soar, but never roam;
True to the kindred points of Heaven and Home!" [Wordsworth]

"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." [Shelley]
Read the study guide:
To a Skylark

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