Discussion Topic

The role and impact of similes and imagery in Percy Bysshe Shelley's "To a Skylark"


Similes and imagery in Percy Bysshe Shelley's "To a Skylark" enhance the poem's vividness and emotional depth. Shelley uses similes to compare the skylark to various elements like a "cloud of fire" and a "high-born maiden," highlighting its ethereal and inspiring qualities. Imagery vividly portrays the skylark's flight and song, evoking a sense of boundless joy and freedom that transcends human experience.

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What are some similes in "To a Skylark" by Shelley?

There are quite a few examples to choose from in this memorable poem. I will pick out some of the similes from the beginning of the poem and hopefully this will enable you to see how it is done so that you can find some more in the rest of the poem. When we think about similes we are always talking about literary comparisons, when the author asserts a comparison between one thing and another, that normally we would never associate with the first object it is being compared to. However, good similes make us see the comparison and see how they are relevant. We can identify similes because they use the words "as" or "like" in their comparisons.

The first example of a simile describes the skylark's upward motion:

Higher still and higher

From the earth thou springest

Like a cloud of fire;

The comparison therefore compares the skylark's movement into the air to a cloud of fire shooting up, emphasising the skylark's vitality and quickness.

Secondly, in the third stanza, the motions of the skylark are compared:

In the golden lightning

Of the sunken sun,

O'er which clouds are bright'ning,

Thou dost float and run;

Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun.

Comparing the skylark to an "unbodied joy" expresses something again of the energy of the skylark and its pure joy of living.

Hopefully this will help you identify more similes that are used in this poem. Good luck!

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What is the significance of similes and imagery in Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Ode To A Skylark"?

“In detail” means a long discussion dealing with line-by-line figures of speech.  If you said “Lines 36 to 55 are a series of similes,” the teacher would not be happy.  If you simply said “The entire poem is a metaphor comparing a skylark to a poet,” you wouldn’t be any further along.  But is you said: The poet hears a skylark sing in the distance
”in profuse strains of unpremeditated art” and wishes that his poetry could fly “higher still and higher” and be “unpremeditated,” that is “spontaneous” and capable of “harmonious madness,” and if you quoted lines 36-40 as a simile that encapsulates the main theme of the ode, you would be on the right track.  Fleshing out this assignment should be lots of fun.  

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How do similes contribute to Percy Bysshe Shelley's "To A Skylark"?

Percy Bysshe Shelley believed in reaching people through poetry and, by association, the world could be a better place. The simplicity of the life of the Skylark should not escape man who can engross himself in the beauty of its call. The mystery surrounding the bird as the poet hears its call but "Like a star of Heaven," cannot see it adds to the dimension to the poem.

Painting a very visual picture allows Shelly to remind us of the simple things in life but Shelly is not convinced that his words provide enough of a picture to ensure contentment as he tries to find something to understand and so express the bird's point of view of the world: "What is most like thee? "  Shelly points out that we can only grasp freedom and experience the thrill in terms of our capacity for strife "Like the poet.....Till the world is wrought..."

To get a better grasp on the real joy that comes from hearing the skylark, Shelley paints each scenario and each simile intensifies the previous one as we should consider all possibilities for happiness.  

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