‘To a Skylark’ is one of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s best-loved poems. Shelley completed it in June 1820; the inspiration was an evening walk he had taken with his wife, Mary, in Livorno, in north-west Italy. Mary later described the circumstances that gave rise to the poem: ‘It was on a beautiful summer evening while wandering among the lanes whose myrtle hedges were the bowers of the fire-flies, that we heard the carolling of the skylark.’
To a 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; Read the rest of this entry
On Shelley’s melancholic but beautiful poem
‘Stanzas Written in Dejection, Near Naples’ is one of Shelley’s finest poems, and, in many ways, one of his most emblematic Romantic poems, given its depiction of individual feeling against the backdrop of the natural world – here, the shores of the sea at the Bay of Naples. Before we proceed to a few words of analysis, here’s a reminder of Shelley’s poem.
Stanzas Written in Dejection, Near Naples
The sun is warm, the sky is clear,
The waves are dancing fast and bright,
Blue isles and snowy mountains wear
The purple noon’s transparent might,
The breath of the moist earth is light,
Around its unexpanded buds;
Like many a voice of one delight,
The winds, the birds, the ocean floods,
The City’s voice itself, is soft like Solitude’s. Read the rest of this entry
A brief overview of Shelley’s famous lyric
‘Music, when soft voices die, / Vibrates in the memory’: of all the lines Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote, these are among the most famous, even though they don’t come from one of his universally admired ‘great’ poems, such as ‘Ozymandias’ or ‘To a Skylark’.
Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory—
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.
Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heaped for the belovèd’s bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.
In his 1920 essay on Algernon Charles Swinburne, Read the rest of this entry