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TO A SKYLARK

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

Ethereal minstrel! Pilgrim of the sky!
Dost thou despise the earth where cares abound?
Or, while the wings aspire, are heart and eye

Both with tl.y nest upon the dewy ground?
$ Thy nest which thou canst drop into at will,

Those quivering wings composed, that music still!
Leave to the nightingale her shady wood;
A privacy of glorious light is thine,

Whence thou dost pour upon the world a flood 10 Of harmony, with instinct more divine;

Type of the wise who soar but never roam,
True to the kindred points of Heaven and Home!

NOTES AND QUESTIONS

Biography. William Wordsworth (1770-1850) was born in the Cumberland Highlands of northern England. The beauty of this country had a great influence on him and his poetry. While still a young man he retired to the beautiful Lake region of northern England and here lived a simple life, depending almost entirely on Nature for companionship and inspiration. He was devoted to the cause of liberty; he believed firmly in the beauty and charm of the humble life. The simplicity and sincerity of his nature are revealed in his poems on birds and flowers. Although the subjects of Wordsworth's poems were taken from everyday, prosaic events and ideas, their structure is sometimes elaborate and intricate. He was a very deep and sincere thinker, and his writings have through them an emotional strain that is as unspoiled as his own life.

Discussion. 1. To whom is the poet talking? 2. How do you picture him as he talks to the bird? 3. How do you imagine he said the words of the first line? 4. What claim has the skylark to the title “ethereal minstrel”? To the title "pilgrim of the sky”? 5. What questions does the poet ask the skylark? How did James Hogg answer these questions in the first stanza of his poem? 6. Read a line of Wordsworth's poem which tells where the nest is made. What words used by James Hogg show that he thought of the “dewy ground”? 7. The darkness of night hides the nightingale; what does Wordsworth say hides the skylark? 8. What habit makes the lark "true to Heaven”? What habit makes him "true to Home"? Which habit is a type of our longing to do good and great things? Which habit is a type of the faithful performance of common duties? 9. What feeling led Wordsworth to write this lyric? 10. You will enjoy hearing these lines read in class by & good reader. 11. Find in the Glossary the meaning of: ethereal; composed.

Suggestions for Theme Topics 1. How an ideal has helped me. 2. The danger that in seeking an ideal we may neglect the real-the simple duties we owe to others in daily life. 3. Wordsworth aspired to write poetry that should express both truth and beauty; he has succeeded in this poem.

TO A SKYLARK

PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY

Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!

Bird thou never wert,
That from heaven, or near it,

Pourest thy full heart
6 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
10 And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest

In the golden lightning

Of the sunken sun,
O'er which clouds are bright'ning,

Thou dost float and run
15 Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun.

The pale purple even

Melts around thy flight;
Like a star of heaven,

In the broad daylight
20 Thou art unseen-but yet I hear thy shrill delight,

1

Keen as are the arrows

Of that silver sphere
Whose intense lamp narrows

In the white dawn clear,
5 Until we hardly see—we feel that it is there.

All the earth and air

With thy voice is loud,
As, when night is bare,

From one lonely cloud
10 The moon rains out her beams, and heaven is overflowed.

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What thou art we know not;

What is most like thee?
From rainbow clouds there flow not

Drops so bright to see
15 As from thy presence showers a rain of melody.

Like a Poet hidden

In the light of thought,
Singing hymns unbidden

Till the world is wrought
20 To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not;

Like a high-born maiden

In a palace tower,
Soothing her love-laden

Soul in secret hour
25 With music sweet as love—which overflows her bower;

Like a glow-worm golden

In a dell of dew,
Scattering unbeholden

Its aërial hue
80 Among the flowers and grass which screen it from the view;

Like a rose embowered

In its own green leaves,
By warm winds deflowered,

Till the scent it gives 6 Makes faint with too much sweet those heavy-wingéd thieves;

Sound of vernal showers

On the twinkling grass,
Rain-awakened flowers,

All that ever was
10 Joyous and clear and fresh, thy music doth surpass.

Teach us, Sprite or Bird,

What sweet thoughts are thine;
I have never heard

Praise of love or wine
15 That panted forth a flood of rapture so divine.

Chorus Hymeneal,

Or triumphal chaunt,
Matched with thine would be all

But an empty vaunt,
20 A thing wherein we feel there is some hidden want.

What objects are the fountains

Of thy happy strain?
What fields or waves or mountains ?

What shapes of sky or plain?
25 What love of thine own kind? What ignorance of pain?

With thy clear, keen joyance

Languor cannot be;
Shadow of annoyance

Never came near thee;
80 Thou lovest—but ne'er knew love's sad satiety.

Waking or asleep

Thou of death must deem
Things more true and deep

Than we mortals dream-
5 Or how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream?

We look before and after,

And pine for what is not;
Our sincerest laughter

With some pain is fraught;
1 Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.

Yet if we could scorn

Hate and pride and fear;
If we were things born

Not to shed a tear,
15 I know not how thy joy we ever should come near.

Better than all measures

Of delightful sound,
Better than all treasures

That in books are found,
20 Thy skill to poet were, thou scorner of the ground!

Teach me half the gladness

That thy brain must know,
Such harmonious madness

From my lips would flow,
25 The world should listen then-as I am listening now.

NOTES AND QUESTIONS

Biography. Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) was an English poet, born at Field Place, Essex. He studied at Eton, one of England's famous boarding schools for boys, and at Oxford University. Some years later he went to live in Italy, and it was here that his best-known poems were written. Although he wrote a number of long poems, his fame rests upon his shorter pieces and lyrics. Shelley had a very sensitive and sympathetic

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