"Hail To Thee, Blithe Spirit"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Shelley praises the melodious skylark. The bird flies singing toward the heavens: "Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight . . . All the earth and air/ With thy voice is loud . . . What thou art we know not;/ What is most like thee?" Shelley searches for an adequate comparison. The bird is like a poet, "a high-born maiden," a glowworm, a rose: "All that ever was/ Joyous, and clear, and fresh, thy music doth surpass." The poet begs the bird to reveal the "sweet thoughts" that inspire its beautiful song: "What objects are the fountains/ Of thy happy strain? . . . With thy clear keen joyance/ Langour cannot be:/ Shadow of annoyance/ Never came near thee:/ Thou lovest–but ne'er knew love's sad satiety." Human songs are always suffused with pain and sadness, and we can never approach the joy of the "scorner of the ground." If the bird would teach the poet half of his gladness, then "Such harmonious madness/ From my lips would flow/ The world should listen then–as I am listening now." The poet salutes the skylark:

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.
Higher still and higher
From the earth thou springest
Like a cloud of fire;
The blue deep thou wingest,
And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.