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This poem, which compares poetry to a bird’s song, is a good example of what Romantic poetry is – “the spontaneous overflow of powerful emotion recollected in tranquility” (Worsworth and Coleridge). Shelley has heard a skylark singing in the forest; its “shrill delight,” which he compares in a series of similes (a lover singing to her love, a wedding chorus, the sound of rain on the grass, the sweetness of a rose, etc.). In recollection, he ponders their source: the song seems to come from a “fountain” or “stream” of purer, happier, more innocent impulses – “What objects are the fountains/of thy happy strain?” -- than human songs-- “Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought” -- He tentatively concludes that the bird’s more sophisticated understanding of the “things more true and deep” is what give the song such a joyous sound. He concludes by wishing that his poet’s song could know that “gladness," so that the world would “listen—as I am listening now” (that is, as I recollect that song in my tranquility).
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