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The Sources, Symbolism, and Unity of Shelley's "Skylark" Author(s): Stewart C.

Wilcox Reviewed work(s): Source: Studies in Philology, Vol. 46, No. 4 (Oct., 1949), pp. 560-576 Published by: University of North Carolina Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 12/12/2011 04:10
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159-160) Mr. Cooper over the merits of Shelley's poem is entirely apart froilmmy admiration of his translations of Plato. that my disagreement with Mr. 158. "In an article entitled ' Probable Dates of Composition of Shelley's " Letter to Maria Gisborne" and "To a Skylark.THE SOURCES.' His lark is a spirit. and in Plato (New York. Robertson (New Essays towards a Critical Method. and philosophical-Shelley so blends in his design that they bring artistic wholeness to its structure and unity to its ideas. 6. WILCOX The sources and influences which stimulated Shelley's imagination when he composed the Skylark are not merely significant in themselves. John Gisborne tells us. p." in Studies in Philology (XXXVI. journals. 54 says. 524-8. suggestive references to the poet's own state of mind in early summer of 1820 when he composed the poem. Let us turn first to the natural observations which led Shelley to compose his poem. who also knows and uses this interesting rhetorical commonplace." 560 . 472).(New Haven. He says in the latter volume: " The Platonic order is rigorous. but also essential in understanding its meaning. Shelley glories in a democratic disorder of similitudes starting with a manifest untruth: 'Bird thou never wert. it is like a poet. 1892. p. These three strands of meaning-natural. White and Elizabeth Nitchie. 1." Mr. 210-222). a source hitherto mentioned only incidentally. M. he associated with Shelley and skylarks. . Jowett. tr. however. SYMBOLISM. Shelley (New York. II. a glow-worm. May I add. 2 and philosophical ideas. n. 1938). Woven into the imagery of the poem are three main threads of development: observations of nature and the skylark mainly suggested by the spot in Italy which. a maiden. In particular. AND UNITY OF SHELLEY'S SKYLARK By STEiWART C. Further his doctrine of 'unpremeditated art' confutes itself by its conscious echo of Milton. In his adverse criticisms of Shelley's good sense and technique (Two Views. Cooper is following Benjamin Jowett here (The Dialogues of Plato. principally embodied in the bird as a Platonic symbol of the ideal spirit of poetry. White.' needs to be elucidated. 1939). parts of which appear below. 1897. I have shown from the chronology of letters. 594. Here also I gratefully acknowledge the help given me in this paper by Newman I. personal. and the Prontetheus Unbound volume that the ' Letter' was in all probability written June 15 and the 'To a Skylark' Juiie 22 or soon afterwards. 1922). pp. his use of the myth of the soul from Plato's Phaedrus. pp. 2 Newman I. 1940). July. 1 By Lane Cooper in Two Views of Education. Cooper is following J.

. by the Conduits. was far from being as happy and joyous as such a reminiscence might lead us to believe. Part 2. of the fields he connected with Shelley and skylarks: We passed by the side of the brook. delicate and odorous flowers. listening to the carolling of the bird. entry for October 20. in the opinion of many critics. During the first half of this year. XXIV and his Portrait of Shelley (New York. and Claire Clairmont stayed at Casa Ricci. now in the British Museum. We returned home . from the unpublished journal of John Gisborne formerly in the Ashley Library.Stewart C. we have beheld the speckled songsters. They were written as his mind prompted. 54. Shelley says: In the spring we spent a week or two near Leghorn. . E. as Newman I. Shelley. over those breezy and luxuriant meadows of which one in particular was most dear to our remembrance. aloft in the azure isky of Italy. borrowing the house of some friends. pursuing our early morning walks over this lovely expanse. . that we heard the carrolling of the skylark. were overgrown with myrtles and other sweet shrubs and embellished with an infinite variety of gaudy.. The Complete Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley (Cambridge. Mrs. and he bore the ' As quoted by G. the Leghorn home of John and Maria Gisborne. . or marking the cloud as it sped across the heavens. III. Shelley also says: ". written in 1827. Shelley was suffering from the effects of a severe winter in Florence. "In this discussion I depend upon White. . It is the favourite resort of innumerable larks. Mass. . 1827. 515. Woodberry. and The Cloud . while he floated in his boat on the Thames. p.5 His nervous energies were depleted. bear a purer poetical stamp than any other of his productions. 1820. Mary. whose myrtle hedges were the bowers of the fireflies. Ch. who were absent on a journey to England. p. 3 . which recalled mournfully to our remembrance a delightful walk we had once taken in that direction with a dear friend who no longer lives but in the indelible sympathies of his surviving and enthusiastic admirers.' Shelley's life in 1829." Additional evidence is John Gisborne'srefreshingly natural description. which inspired one of the most beautiful of his poems. White emphasizes. 1945). n. XXI. Ch. Shelley. 515) 'Quoted by White. . however. and other sweet-voiced birdsl How often. . the Ode to the Skylark. . Vol. Wilcox 561 From June 15 to August 5. In a note of 1839 Mrs. It was on a beautiful summer evening while wandering among the lanes. II. Shelley." (So Woodberry. 594. 1892). burst forth from their bed of rich the very air with their incessant herbage and soar fluttering-gladdening a height at which the straining eye could scarcely and thrilling notes-to ken the stationary and diminutive specks into which their soft and still The steep banks of the brook receding forms had at length vanished.

as well as the previous attempts at blackmail by Paolo. and lbntity of Shelley's "Skylark" burdens of Godwin's financial difficulties. hark! the lark at heaven's gate." "On Paradise Lost" by Andrew Marvell. Doubtless he recollected some of themlShakespeare's " Hark. the unattainable perfection of the ideal. L (1935). In the midst of these trials he remained relatively unproductive. it then follows that the poem should be Platonistically interpreted. however. It is of interest to observe that previous bird poeins do not seem to have deeply influenced Shelley.5642 Sources." Gray's "Ode on the Pleasure's arising from Vicissitude" may likewise have had some in . Moreover. the domestic discord between her and Claire. help disclose. Richards's "A Note on Source Influences in Shelley's Cloud and Skylark." the last lines of his sonnet "When in disgrace with fortune . . Hence to see in the conieluding stanzas of the Skylark a contrast between the joy of the spirit of the ideal poet embodied in the bird and the depression of the earthly poet still longing for the moral regeneration of men's minds is but to recognize Shelley's growing despair that man would ever realize anew a world's great age. 562-567. What is perhaps surprising is that he wrote at all. the mysterious Neapolitan child. could as well be coincidental as necessary. suggests that the "by no means improbable" source of the Skylark is "the well-known melodious verses. Shelley's discharged servant. for his resiliency of spirit was remarkable. Moreover. structure. The heart of this discussion of sources and influences is that Shelley used Plato's myth of the winged soul in the Phaedrus as the philosophical basis of his symbolism of the bird in the Skylark." PMLA. Doubtless he took momentary delight in the surroundings of Casa Ricci. To these troubles were added the death of Elena Adelaide Shelley. Mary's frantic worry over them. ." in which the bird is ani "Emblem of happiness. it is a poem of yearning for the ecstatic joy of the skylark-poet. Symlbolism. . The parallels therein offered. But the Skylark is basically not joyous-indeed. and meaning--will be clearly seen to depend upon the consistency of the ideas suggested by the skylark as a symbol. for he was concerned far less about public recognition of his genius than about acceptance of his moral precepts for reform. its unity-its steady progression to climnax in imagery. to which we now come. the English reviewers' condemnations of his ideas in his poetry aroused his hatred and plunged him into discouragement. and AMary's continuing grief over the loss of Clara and William. T. This Shelley's sources.6 S 1." or Hogg's " The Skylark. If he did.

" The Dating of Shelley's Notes and Translations from Plato. The exact date of course makes little difference here. 27 ff. 8 See Frederick L. 245-248. Shelley apparently influenced Wordsworth's "To a Skylark" of 1825. seems highly unlikely. 115-116. . inspiration] as a blessing.7 Even the brief." MLR. Concerning inspiration and the nature of man's soul. Menexenus. pp. movement. poetry based upon art without inspiration] fades into nothingness before the poetry of the madmen. After launching into the magnificent poetry of his myth in which the soul is " likened to the conjoint nature of a team of winged horses and a charioteer. such relationships seem similar to that which Shelley's poem bears to Wordsworth's "To the Cuckoo" (1807): ". " The Dating of Shelley's Prose. At their closest. all of them. however.. . XXXIV (1939). but an invisible thing. a mystery. "Shelley's Skylark. therefore. . . reference to Wordsworth's " To a Skylark" (1807). but proof of this rests upon our knowledge of the real nature of the soul. . for excellent proof that On Love was written late in 1820 or early in 1821. . 9These quotations and the ones which follow are from Cooper's Plato. parts of the Republic. .a Thus Shelley's mind was full of Platonic concepts and images. / A voice. . Rossetti's guess of 1815." 9 He then goes on to sav that the gods gave men madness [i. Jones. Plato says. Symposium.Stewart C. 27 for In his own turn. rightly possessed. and that during the previous two years he had translated the Ion. the madness brings release from his present ills . J." and " the poetry of common-sense [i. wherein is found the figure of the winged soul as well as observations upon the soul itself and its divine inspiration. . Perhaps the most famous and striking of all these is the myth of the charioteer in the Phaedrus. " The Vision Theme in Shelley's Alastor and Related Works. Notopoulos." Plato adds: Now with the gods the horses and the charioteers are noble. e. and the myrtle hedges and field of skylarks at Casa Ricci Hardy's little poem." See below n. A. XLIV (1947).. both in themselves and by descent. LVIII (1943). whereas with other races there is a fluence. 491-492. and the notes on Socrates. essay On Love was probably composed in 1820. shall I call thee Bird / Or but a wandering Voice? . e. "To him who is rightly mad. ." SP. suggests the date 1818-19. A." PMLA. Suffice it here that this nature is the soul's immortality which derives from its essence. Notopoulos. though important. Wilcox 563 First we should observe that Shelley read both the Phaedrus and the Phaedo during his stay at Pisa during the first half of 1820. No bird." ' See J.

" we arrive at the part of the Phaedrus which specifically suggested to Shelley the philosophical basis of his symbolism: And now it is that a human soul may pass into the existence of a beast. nourishes the wings of the soul. when it is perfect. now in another. and traverses the whole heaven. or servalnts of the Muses and Eros. those of the fullest vision becoming lovers of wisdom or beauty. and regulates the entire world. Now comes the question why a living creature is called mortal or immortal.564 Sources. one of them is beautiful and good. And a man who makes right use of memories like these is ever being initiated into perfect mysteries. And hence for us the driving must needs be different and vexing. The conjoint self-moving-but whole. and this we must try to explain. never can pass into our human shape. it soars on high. those whose souls are wholly immortal and who gaze upon the eternal essences. secondly. Why not? Because Man necessarily has intelligence according to 'ideal form ' as it is called. and has the added namneof 'mortal. when on high it viewed the things we now say are. taking on an earthly body which seems to be the cause of motion is the power of the soul. Goodness. Wisdom. and fully winged. the driver has to guide a pair of horses. winged. and Unity of Shelley's "Skylark" mixture. shed their wings and fall to earth. men]. or which are misused and become filled with forgetfulness and evil. But since he turns away . when it lifted up its head towards true Wherefore rightly is the mind of the lover of wisdom only existence. and there finds a dwelling place. which is Beauty. and. But man's wing. a remembrance of those things which once our soul beheld when it went in the procession with its God. Omitting here Plato's discussion of the time required for a soul to " return to the place from which it comes. appearing now in one shape. soul arid the body thereto knit. for with all the power he has he gives himself in memory to those things by communing with which God is divine. Soul in its totality has the care of all that is inanimate. e. With us [i. But this act of thought is recollection. the other reverse in character and stock. In their first birth such souls become men.. for the soul that never had a vision of the truth. and also from a beast he who once was human may pass back again into a man. But the soul that has lost its wings is borne along until it fastens upon something solid. is nearest the divine. And the divine. of all bodily elements. Symbolism. note first. to go upward to the region where dwell the gods. is called a living creature. and he alone becomes truly perfect. Plato next adds that mortal souls which fail in their attempt to gaze upon the essences. which proceeds from many sense-perceptions into one concept of reflection.' Now the natural function of a wvingis to soar.

One of Mr. but these when they behold some semblance of the things that are yonder are amazed. which parts. underneath. (Pantheon Books.. and if he were not afraid that men would think him downright mad. long since grown hard. Of the foregoing passages Lane Cooper has remarked that ". . and lose possession of themselves.and a god indeed.out. Its History and Signiftcance in European Devotional Art. This kind it is that causes a man to be held for mad. of the growth of the wings and the feathers for the upward flight of the soul. steeped in Plato's 10 Ibid. and begin to grow from the root. all over the form of the soul-for of yore the entire soul was feathered. quivering. . or at least in a form approximating that of a bird. anon. is the point we have reached with our whole discourse in the fourth kind of madness. the shuddering passes." 10 Yet Shelley. like a bird indifferent to everything below. While he looks. Such icons appear to derive from the oldest of catacomb . 77. the quills of the feathers swell. and he is taken with sweating and unwonted heat. when he beholds a face of aspect divine well copying the Beautiful. painters of the Madonna and Child regularly included the bird-assymbol in their representations. and kept the plumes from budding forth. when he sees the beauty here below. were tightly sealed. he would bow down to his love with offerings as if it were a graven image. because they cannot clearly make it. 1946). During the Renaissance. but he cannot. and. The Bollingen Series VII. more aspiring part was early connected with the idea of being winged and came to be pictorialized in the form of a bird.Stewart C. however. who. for he has received the effluence of beauty through his eyes. the many see not that he is a man inspired. . . The soul being the loftier. . . See Herbert Friedmann. p. And as the nourishment streams in. as he gazes at the object. Small is the remnant of the souls in whom is present the needful share of memory. and only gazes up. And with the warmth are melted the parts where sprout the wings. but what it is so moves them. The Symbolic Goldfinch. . that they do not know. Friedmann's comments is especially illuminating (p. . and cleaves to the divine. would fain mount upwards. he reveres it as if it were a god. 7): " The goldfinch (or other small bird) represents the Soul as opposed to the Body. In addition. the Ion contains nothing so odd to the modern reader as the detailed description . the world rebukes him for a madman. and with that effluence his wing is bathed to life. continues Plato in his discourse upon him who has lately gazed upon the eternal essence of Beauty. . Wilcox 565 fromi the concerns of men. and is made hot. then. in remembrance of the veritable beauty is fledged with wings. Apparently the origins of the little bird as a symbol of the soul are hidden in the dim mists of antiquity. first he shudders. or an ideal bodily form. and something of the terror he then had comes over him. Here. the spiritual in contrast to the earthly part.

St." 11 part ". which is followed by a transitional stanza apostrophising the skylark. Yet we soon perceive that Shelley is going to begin relatively close to the ground with natural particulars." Both transitional stanzas. Hierethe skylark is both a real bird and a spiritual symbol." The verse. of whom we may mention in particular Yroj6 Hirn. and may even go back to Egyptian hieroglyphics. White. emphasize the symbolic value of the skylark first to the poet in general. which is bounded by them. philosophical part of the poem. 1932). and clear. as Elizabeth Nitchie has pointed out. evidently found the figure more provocative than odd. evermounting flight is vividly suggested by the lilting rhythm of the line " And singing still dost soar. belong in division two. p. . Shelley's personal life in 1820. Ambrose explains the two sparrows of the Gospel as signifying the Body and the Soul 'for both are lifted up to God by spiritual wings. and Unity of Shelley's "Skylark" poetical imagery. Thc Best of Shelley (New York. which accomplishes the skylark's metamorphosis into a symbol representing the soul. A Study of the Poetry and Art of the Catholic Church (1912). proceed to an examination of the structure."' "' Newman I. the second summarizes part two and carries us over from its comparisons to the third. who. real skylark to a being apprehensible only through figurative comparisons that reveal aspects of hidden beauty. the spirit.a66 Sources. and the influence of real skylarks. The first six stanzas are the proem. This is the decorations. it should be remarked. and fresh. p. imagery. and then to the Indeed. . . . Nevertheless its spiral. and symbolism of the Skylark in the light of the myth. . interpretation stressed by several writers. The natural skylark is not of course described. The subdivisions of this philosophical particular poet Shelley. 488. 373. so disposes of the motif of the little bird. Let us. in his learned book The Sacred Shrine. then. the extraordinary care that Shelley took to prepare the reader for the three main as well as the lesser parts of his poem is revealed in the very first stanza. . Shelley clearly indicates his three main divisions. " What is most like thee? " This stanza and the following four that answer Shelley's question in as many figures lead up to a second stanza of transition in which the skylark's music is said to surpass "All that ever was / Joyous. of the ideal poet. and both are skilfully constructed to look both forward and backward: the first effects the change from the natural. and soaring ever singest. Symbolism. and the soaring spirit of poetry which is his essence.

They rush over into the wider space. . or possible in the reading. The long fifth line of the stanzas. so is the skylark still heard. 1930). the morning-star whose " intense lamp narrows " until it is hardly seen and is but felt still to be in the sky. S. for it is like an "unbodied joy 'p12 or a "star of Heaven" but dimly seen in daylight. 1929). is reflected in the stanza form. that I were / The viewless spirit of a lovely sound. " Shelley's 'Skylark': The 'Silver Sphere. The image of the ' flood of rapture' (1. especially. Like Venus. 197 ff. st. carries us skilfully on by its metaphor. which appears in his essay on Crashaw in For Lancelot Andrewes (New York. 3) and its background (purple evening. a breathing harmony. In addition the similes of these stanzas suggest the ethereal nature of the skylark. moreover. for Shelley is not going to appeal primarily to our sight. Stanza ive. pp. Compare Byron's Manfred. Hence some of Empson's interesting remarks on this stanza in Seven Types of Ambiguity (London. Wilcox 567 overflows its bounds."' NcfQ. It may be remarked further that Plato's emphasis upon vision occurs in the very passage which sets forth the figure of the " feathered soul.l" This preparation. This article convincingly identifies the Rilver sphere as Venus rather than the moon. are beside the point. Eliot has perhaps wilfully said he does not understand. We are next given the setting (the sunset. Whose intense lamp narrows In the white dawn clear Until we hardly see-we feel that it is there. Eliot's comment." 18 Mr. CLXI (1931). 135-136. T. is peculiarly necessary. I.Stewart C. though become invisible: Keen as are the arrows Of that silver sphere. which Mr. st.. correct reading fits perfectly into the interpretation of the poem offered here. it may be noted that the latter. often with no pause indicated by punctuation." Hence if Shelley did use the myth. he was doubtless aware of the significance of this change in sensory appeal and developed the Harvard MS clears up the once-disputed emendation of ""Although embodied for unbodied. / A living voice. 52-55: " Oh. pp. is quoted by A. 4). / A bodiless enjoyment. 4-6. Eiloart. ii. but to our hearing-a departure from Plato's emphasis upon our vision as the faculty through which we best apprehend essential forms and beauty. which is repeated many times in the poem. gives the effect of a swift cascade of sound overflowing the rim of the quatrain. 65). for the 'profuse strains' cannot be confined within narrow limits.

Most strikiing here is the coalescence of the appeals to our sense perceptions. The suggestion of the colors of the spectrum. We are now Ode: Intimations seem to 14 Echoes of the first part of Wordsworth's linger in this and the next stanza. . In the previous stanza the moon has rained out her beams from a cloud to overflow Heaven with light."' Here. " rainbow clouds " and " rainbow" are in both. though difficult to anatomize. is the reversal in order of emphasis designed to reinforce the shift from vision to hearing. light. and fifth stanzas. Without mixing his sense references Shelley works his imagery forward from his comparison into the active word showers. and the trimeter of the two poems reinforces the effect of resemblance.568 Sources. the last in part one. Symbolism. 7-12) begins with the first of the two transitional stanzas: What thou art we know not. Aside from the obvious Platonic eonnections between Shelley's and Wordsworth's two poems. for it is now the light which is in the simile. The second part (sts. and Heaven is overflowed. That is. fourth. Here. as do the early lines of the third. From one lonely cloud The moon rains out her beams. then. and the organic iiielusion of these elements in the metaphor "rain of melody" produce a coalescent imagery of the highest order. all are blended into one phrase. the liquid inotes of the skylark showering a rain of music are like bright drops seen descending from a rainbow cloud. when night is bare. and Unity of Shelley's "'Skylark" his metaphors and imagery accordingly. Sound. instead of describing the visual. What is most like thee? From rainbow clouds there flow not Drops so bright to see As from thy presence showers a rain of melody. veritably rings with the bird's song: All the earth and air With thy voice is loud. the first two lines describe the aural. of the brilliant refraction of the raindrops. however. In succeeding stanzas a consummately handled shift from appeal to one sense to another has prepared us for part two. are rhythmuical and verbal resemblances which. As. color. The next stanza. persistently strike a coinmon chord: " Night is bare " (S) and " the heavens are bare " (W). as is the nioon.

Wilcox 569 fully prepared for the similes describing the skylark. who. 29. who. the Greek. Cooper. and traverses the whole heaven. Shelley was elevated by joy and divine madness above the mundane: poetical composition lifted him "above the stormy mist of sensations" of the ordinary world (See following comment on stanza 14 of the Skylark and the quotation below from the Ion. Urania was a direct link. see John S." a disseminator 1" The significance of Lane Cooper's comment. to say the least. this essay in which occur the lines " Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. 748772. now in another. which in their method contrast so strongly with Keats'. if he is "rightly mad" (Plato's phrase) like the skylark itself in stanza one. . the inner illumination which compensates him in the darkness of his loss of physical sight." is to be connected with the purely divine soul which " in its totality has the care of all that is inanimate. appearing now in one shape. when he indicated between mere art and divine inspiration." Phaedrus. And dictates to me slumb'ring." and " the hierophants [Cf. a source of divine knowledge. . For through his imagination the poet becomes "the great instrument of moral good. " Critical Activity of the Poetic Mind: John Milton. who deigns Her nightly visitation unimplor'd. who in Shelley's figure is hidden " In the light of thought. that Shelley's " doctrine of ' unpremeditated art' confutes itself by its conscious echo of Milton. when it is perfect. or inspires Easy my unpremeditated Verse . and fully winged. In the Miltonic phrase Hebraic-Christian and Platonic-Neoplatonic references have complicatedly fused. Milton's phrase is in Paraduae Lost. . IX.Stewart C. and regulates the entire world.) For discussion of Milton's 'unpremeditated' first drafts. LV (1940). previously quoted. . Urania's is the creative inspiration of wisdom. I fail to see how Shelley confutes himself. he and tradition say.". Plato. sings " hymns unbidden " from the divine inspiration of "unpremeditated art. is to be perceived the core of his moral philosophy." is. Diekhoff. was. whereas Shelley's phrase would seem to imply the contrast already For Milton. 24: Of my Celestial Patroness. in a state of mental tranquillity. puzzling. who also knows and uses this interesting rhetorical commonplace . meaning 'priests of the Eleusinian mysteries'] of an unapprehended inspiration." PMLA. it soars on high. the answers to the poet's rhetorical question " What is most like thee? " The first reply compares the skylark to the Poet." "I In this conception of the ideal poet. for Milton here is appealing to Urania. enlightened him in the night when he was composing. . Shelley's famous passage at the end of 16 From A defence of Poetry. apparently. for example. p." just as the bird is unseen in its airy spiral upward. Though the echo is obvious.

913. is like the maiden's. is analogous to the maidens of the other poems. 49) is interpreted to mean ethereal in the sense of celestial. IL In the Harvard MS this line reads "With music which is love. ats does F. is appareiit-the . xlix. and seek to awaken in all things that are. or hope beyond ourselves. op." If the adjective aereal (1. a community with what we experience within ourselves. Symbolism."' PMLA. XLIV (1947). And with these threads a subtle veil she wove A Shadow for the splendour of her love (151-152). The significance of the deletion is that he first identified literally the maiden's music with love. practlically one. figuratively. "I second that the maiden is. when we find within our own thoughts the chasm of an insufficienitvoid. And then in the next. " The Symbolism of Shelley's 'To a Skylark. in its organic imagery it is correspondent with the development of the whole poem so far as the poem relates to Shelley's ideas on Love. or fear. Marjarum. the last stanza of part two. External nature is again used for coinparison in the next stanza. . 911-913."18 Though the reference is hardly more than a hint. who relevantly discusses the theme. . The comparison of the skylark to a glowworm in the grass." SP. the soul of the type-Poet.. or the Witch of Atlas. Thus the skylark's music. where the bird is compared to a rose. an aspect of Intellectual Beauty. L. Evidently Shelley substituted sweet as while he was entering the Skylark in his copybook.' was undoubtedly prompted by the fireflies Shelley saw among the myrtle hedges at Lehorn.570 Sources. 9) arouses two trains of reflection: first that the arts of poetry and music were to Plato. p. which " overflows her bower. p. says of this glowworm image that it .". 108-125.. In showers we are reminded of the same word in the first stanza of "I See Cooper. the use of simile is abandoned and the previous stanzas unified. the consistency of the meaning suggested by the imagery here ideal in the actual. W. Jones. except that here the flowers and grass form the veil. . Plato. Love.. who took threads of mist and light and starbeams. "Marjarum. cit. The veiled maiden is of course a frequent appearance in Shelley. See E. Soothing her love-laden / Soul in secret hour / With music sweet as love " (st. which overflows 1leaveii." (On Love) The " maiden . It has the same juxtaposition of elements as the veiled and luminous maiden of Alastor. as to all Greeks. " that powerful attractnor Lowardsall that we conceive. LII (1937). " The Vision Theme in Shelley's ' Alastor' and Related Works. and Utnity of Shelley's "Skylark" of love. which reminds the admirer of Marvell of " The mower to the glowworms.

the previous images. 200: 'Die of a rose in aromatic pain. 381. Essays. In their figures the Poet. 1819: 'Odour. 1. This. are brightly awakened by the refreshing rain. and fresh. 21 See Cooper. and the flowers. apparent a logical unity between the earlier 'descriptive' stanzas and the later 'reflective' ones. p. produces sensations of voluptuous faintness'. thy music doth surpass. January 16. and rose are bidden beauty.2' "I have never heard. 452 of Epipsychidion: March 23. . Alastor. 1944). and clear. The thesis of this paper of course is that Shelley's imagery is artistically woven into a carefully developed structural plan. 212. which . I have found E. Wayne Marjarum's article " The Symbolism of He does not. are summed up in the word All of the last two lines: All that ever was Joyous. concealment becomes the mode of its suggestion. Shelley translated the Symposium in July. n. p. 108-10 of the present poem. for which we are now ready. glowworm." says Shelley of the skylark in the first stanza of the last part. Plato. I. Here also Shelley creates organically. . to be sure.' Compare also 11. maiden. the subject of which is Love.22 In the succeeding stanzas the superiority of inspiraBarnard. in contrast to the rose with its sweet order " in the stanza before. Odyssey Series in Literature (New York. . to 1. editor of Shelley: Selected Poems. note to last stanza of the Skylark. 1821: ' the smell of a flower affects me with violent emotions. the occasion a feast at which the wine is partly symbolical. and since to Shelley beauty was an aspect of Love. Finally. " Locock compares Shelley's letter to Peacock. 1818. the whole being unified by a (1) natural (2) figuratively compared (3) symbolic skylark which in the poem is correspondent with the winged soul in Plato's myth. for the showers sound on the grass that is twinkling with the phosphorescent fireflies. and 20 Ellsworth Letters. 913). Praise of love or wine That panted forth a rapture so divine. 453 ('a soul-dissolving odour') . find readily Shelley's 'To a Skylark'" helpful. . Wilcox 571 this second part. yet that makes no less effective the use of hidden beauty as a preparation for part three. though there seems to be no necessary order in their arrangement. This motif is implicit. Rather he seeks for the poem " a native unity born of common origin in a unique personality" (p. and the letter to Clare. . harks back to Plato's Symposium. however.Stewart C. and Pope's Essay on Man.'" 21Hoxie Neale Fairchild kindly pointed out to me this motif of part two. I believe. See also below.

In stanza seventeen the poem reaches its climax. anld Untity of Shelley's " Skylark " tioIi to artistry is again indicated in the comparison of the divine notes of the skvlark to such lesser music. Shelley has made the skylark a symbol of exultation and spiritual desire. The apotheosis of the skylark becomes complete: Waking or asleep Thou of death muustdeem 23 Things more true and deep Than we mortals dream Or how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream? In the mythiopoeic senise the skylark is now a symbol of spirit and as if it were a fully winged soul must be able to see behind the veil that pr-events mortals from apprehending pure form." as a marriage chorus or mere chant of triumph. Moreover. And pine for what is not: Our sincerest laughter With some pain is fraught.he yearns for lifein-death. the objects that evoke the bird's song (st. and unlike man. 226. bound down as he is in the earthly prison-house of his mortal form. Benjamin Kurtz concludes that the poem here ascends a climax to a synthesis of life-in-death. as it is also in the next stanza. It would seem that the contrast is to his own worldly tribulations in 1820. to see what the idealized skylark can see. Man comes into the world "trailing clouds of glory". 1933). knowing not the pure perfection of the beauteous forms gazed upon by non-mortals whose souls are fully winged. to the same " true and deep "p intuitioil that The Cloud attains in its culmination. where the skylark's spirit is said to be free of weariness (languor) and annoyance. Nor is the skylark's ethereal spirit subject to the satiety of earthly love as is the mortal poet. but his recollections are a dim. shadowy memory. "wherein we feel there is some hidden want.572 Sources. the bird loves its own kind and knows no pain. 23 24 Deem here means think." 24 But our realization is not purely joyous. but I cannot die. evidently. la) give pause MIoreover. p. The Pursuit of Death (New York. Using Plato's poetic fable. who must suffer from the soul's mixture of earthly and heavenly love. Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought. for We look before and after. Symbolism. for question. . says Shelley. " I change.

the painted curtain from this scene of things. It strips. iv. 37) But Shelley's use in the Skylark of " large discourse [i. n. B." The shocking absurdities of the popular philosophy of mind and matter." Thus the central mood of yearning aspiration in the poem is fulfilled in the joy of the ideal bird. agrees with W. "The Dating of Shelley's Prose. is death the conclusion of our being? What is birth and death? The most refined abstractions of logic conduct to a view of life. Wilcox 573 Significantly. 489-491. M. A. It is a decision against which all our persuasions struggle. its fatal consequences in morals.. but what he has been and shall be. . which. LXII (1947). PMLA. For what are we? Whence do we come? and whither do we go? Is birth the commencement. in fact. 148). F.Stewart C. the first line of this stanza is an echo of a phrase in the fragment " On Life " (1819 ?). and we must be long convicted before we can be convinced that the solid universe of external things is " such stuff as dreams are made of [sic. Jones. is. " looking both before and after. there is a spirit within him at enmity with nothingness and dissolution.]." pp. man is a being of high aspirations. 774. but what he has been and shall be. 2.25 There Shelley asks." disclaiming alliance with transience and decay. " Shelley's On Life. had early conducted me to materialism. gave us not That capability and god-like reason To f ust in us unus'd (IV. Forman that the essay is of 1816-16. This is the character of all life and being. and dispenses them from thinking. not what he is. as it were. L. e. Shelley is saying that we 25J. that which the habitual sense of its repeated combinations has extinguished in us. This materialism is a seducing system to young and superficial minds. existing but in the future and the past." whose " thoughts wander through eternity. Notopoulos. Whatever may be his true and final destination. He that made us with such large discourse. supports Dowden's conjecture of 1819. though startling to the apprehension. being. The previous phrase is from Hamlet: Sure. incapable of imagining to himself annihilation. I confess that I am one of those who am unable to refuse my assent to the conclusions of those philosophers who assert that nothing exists but as it is perceived. That man's " thoughts wander through eternity " is from Belial's harangue in Paradise Lost (II. However. Rossetti and H. Looking both before and after. But I was discontented with such a view of things as it afforded. reasoning power] looking both before and after " undoubtedly goes back not only to Shakespearebut also to the foregoing argument in which man is considered " not what he is. and their violent dogmatism concerning the source of all things. It allows its disciples to talk.

The delight of love and friendship. are mortals. A clothing for the soul divinie. and fear. and consequently sorrow and joy are blended for it. The production and assuraiice of pleasure in this highest senise is true utility. And hence the saying. the joy of the perception and still more of the creation of poetry." Not that this highest species of pleasure is necessarily linked with pain. that if it were not true that Joy and woe are woven fine. or he may mean that by virtue of that very suffering man becomes able to experience a joy that does come near the skylark's. are often the chosen expressions of an approximation to the highest good. p. to be sure. " The meaning . " It is better to go to the house of mourning. I know not how thy joy we ever should come niear. Of it Mr. This I think he makes clear in the next stanza: Yet if we could scorn Hate. tragedy delights by affording a shadow of the pleasure wlich exists in pain. Ellsworth Barnard says. . to 1. 28 Shelley: Selected Poems. the pain of the inferior is frequently connected with the pleasures of the superior piortions of our being. in the happiest state coniceivable. Shelley may mean that even if man were not subdued by suffering. This paradox of pain and sadness in human pleasure he discusses in A Defence of Poetry: . The pleasure that is in sorrow is sweeter than the pleasure of pleasure itself.could not come near perfect joy of the skylark. of looking before and after. Those who produce and preserve this pleasure are poets or poetical philosophers. and Letters. the ecstasy of the admiration of nature." 26 Perhaps the obscurity can be resolved by remembering what Blake said. n. and pride. Our symiipathy in tragic fiction depends on this principle. Hence the Skylark reflects Shelley"skeen awareness of the mixture of his personal sorrows and his yearning for the pure joy of imagination in its most exalted mood. he still. is ofteni wholly unalloyed. is somewhat obscure. with the capacity. despair itself. which the bird does lnot have. from an inexplicable defect of harmony in the constitution of human nature. .. We merely pine is not. than to the hotuse of mirth. . . If we were thijigs born Not to shed a tear. Essays. Sorrow. for whaLt in our human song. anguish.574 and Unlity of Shelley's " Skylark " Sources. 91. terror. 322. Symbolismti. but without the ability of the bird or of the winged soul to fly straight to heaven. This is the source also of the melancholy which is inseparable fromiithe sweetest melody.

. 198-203) Again man's longing for the perfection of the skvlark-poet is emphasized in the next stanza. And finally in the last stanza Shelley appeals to the skylark for personal inspiration of divine madness. where Shelley suggests that the skylark's skill makes it the ideal for a poet to follow: neither the loveliest music nor the finest poetry can equal the mad ecstasy of the songbird. (Prometheus Unbound.. LX (1945)." PMLA. No more than Miss Schneider do I wish to labor the obvious. I would build that dome in air . delight or joy also was essential. And all should cry. compose their beautiful poems not by art. but because they are inspired and possessed. or suffered them. but that is not to be wondered at. And as the Corybantian revellers when they dance are not in their right mind. for Shelley pictured man in the millenium as not free from. he is drawing upon the ancient conceptof furor poeticus. For Shelley. Which were. like Bacchic maidens who draw milk and honey from the rivers when they are under the influence of Dionysus but not when they are in their right mind. Yet probably the most famous passage of the vates with "eye in a fine frenzy rolling. Elizabeth Schneider points out in "The Dream of Kuba Rhan. " labor and pain and grief ": Passionless? no: yet free from guilt or pain. And the . suggests its own parallels: " In like manner the Muse first of all inspires men herself. and death. his floating hair! That poetic inspiration for Coleridge had its roots in joy. For all good poets.Stewart C. though master over. Beware! Beware! His flashing eyes.. though ruling them like slaves. an article deserving of the closest attention.27 M1 The poemhas comefull turn. . There is something of a paradox. Could I revive within me Her symphony and song To such a deep delight 'twould win me That with music loud and long. From chance. Wilcox 575 we could not even approach the joy of the aspiring soul. we should have no comprehension of it. The clogs of that which else might oversoar The loftiest star of unascended heaven. and mutability.. Nor yet exempt. for his will made. epic as well as lyric.. poet-seer. III. Like Coleridge in the corresponding lines of Kubla Khan. the 784-801. ." a description in which Plato doubtless borrowed much from accounts of individuals possessed by the god in worshipping Dionysus. so the lyric poets are not in their right mind when they are composing their beautiful strains: but when falling under the power of music and metre they are inspired and possessed. .

like the bees. for they tell us that they bring songs from honeyed fountains. p. 3rd ed. Dialogues of Plato (Oxford. 488. Once more may I draw upon Newman I. III. The doctrine of inspiration and art. if only he were as divinely joyous (blithe) as the skylark. as they themselves say. See Cooper. as The Be8t of Shelley. White. and the mind is no longer in him. a fact which links it to the Phaedrus. Phaedrus himself was among the speakers of the Symposium.. xcvii: "Could I em" body and unbosom now / That which is most within me." Likewise compare Byron's Childe Harold. would gain the ear of the world.. for its meaning gives it an underlying. Both overflow from the optimism of the third act of Prometheus Unbound. modified by personal Both reveal Shelley's intense desire that the sorrows and disillusion. Nevertheless the latter poem reveals extraordinary skill in the handling of its imagery and in its structural and symbolic development. 1942. I. 501-502. whence springs eloquence and poetry. 800. And this is true. and joy divine / In that song of thine. xlvii. openly discussed in the Phaedrus. Both dialogues are on the art of love. Plato. he is powerless and is unable to utter his oracles.). Symbolism. is implicit in the Symposium. The last line of the latter (emphasizing the "then" and "now") unconsciously reveals that the antagonism of the general public caused Shelley more depression than his letters admit. guide me high and high / To thy baniqueting-place in the sky. and Unity of Shelley's " Skylark " for here too is the " unpremeditated art " of the first stanza. coherent unity. culling them out of the gardens and dells of the Muses. / Lift me. p. when he has not attained to this state. winging their way from flower to flower. Its internal consistency thus becomes its own evidence." As quoted by Schneider. pp. they. he is ad(dressing the bird: "Where is madness about thee. and there is no invention in him until he has been inspired and is out of his senses." Together they represent almost perfectly the two aspects of Shelley's poetry. The concluding line emphasizes once more the moral function of the poet-here Shelley himself-who. who says: In the Ode to the West Wind Shelley the prophet of reform seeks to become one in spirit with the destroying and preserving west wind. external suipport to which is given by the Platonic patterns of so much of Shelley's verse and prose and by his own life in 1820.576 Sources. from Jowett's translation of the Ion. 212. For the poet is a light and winged and holy thing. Compare also here Wordsworth's To a Skylark. . world should listen to him. in To a Skylark the lyric side of his genius seeks to become similarly identified with the spirit of "unbodied joy. University of Oklahoma soul of the lyric poet does the same.-' The Ode to the West Wind may perhaps be technically superior in its threefold structure and unique versification to the Skylark.