Critical Appreciation of the poem "To a Skylark" by P.B. Shelley.

P.B. Shelley is one of the greatest romantic poets. To a Skylark epitomizes almost all the qualities of the poet within its little compass. In this sense the poem is also a representative poem of Shelley.

Idealization and abstraction are characteristic features of Shelley's poetry. Objects of nature often appear to the poet's imagination as highly idealised and spiritualised beings. The poet etherealises the skylark into a spirit- a spirit of joyous song. It is no longer a bird of flesh and blood. It is a "blithe Spirit", "an unbodied joy" whose race is just begun. But in no case the poet loses sight of the real bird, its habit, its ways of flight, its nature of singing. As characteristics of the poet, Shelley has passed on from particular to general, concrete to abstract, reality to etherealisatiorn.

The poem expresses the poet's deep-seated despondent mood.
The grossness of reality with all its ugliness, and cruelty pains the poet. The joyous song of the skylark reminds him of the imperfections in human songs and his mind becomes filled with a sense of melancholy:

We look before and after
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught:

Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.

The poet believes that it is not possible for man to be perfectly happy in life and to sing songs of unalloyed pure joy like the skylark.
The poet wishes if we could be as joyous as the skylark and could sing so profusely and rapturously as the bird is capable.

Shelley's poetry is poetry of images. Images come quite spontaneously, naturally and unconsciously to him and they have always their freshness, poetic appeal and due appropriateness. In the poem, the upward flight of the skylark is compared to a cloud of fire, a star eclipsed by daylight, the moon hidden from view in the glare of daylight, a poet hidden in the light of his,thought, a maiden singing from her bower in the palace-tower. The brilliance of the melodious song is compared to moon-light flooding the earth and the sky, bright rain-drops falling from the rainbow clouds, a glow-worm scattering its light among flowers and grass, a rose scattering its fragrance around it.

Last of all, the poem exhibits Shelley's missionary zeal to help regenerate the world. In the poem Shelley earnestly wishes to have at least a part of the gladness of the skylark. If he obtains it he will be able to sing with such poetic frenzy that the whol: world will listen to him:

Teach me half the gladness
That thy brain must know,
Such harmonious madness
From my lips would flow
The world should listen then - as I am listening now.

We may conclude that To a Skylark is a remarkable and lyric poem. It achieves distinction for spontaneity too. It is worthy enough to survive Shelley after his death.

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