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Poems Every Child Should Know by  Mary E. Burt


 

 

ODE TO A SKYLARK

"Ode to a Skylark," by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), is usually assigned to "grammar grades" of schools. It is included here out of respect to a boy of eleven years who was more impressed with these lines than with any other lines in any poem:

"Like a poet hidden,

In the light of thought

Singing songs unbidden

Till the world is wrought

To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not."



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.


[269]

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.


In the golden lightning

Of the sunken sun,

O'er which clouds are brightening,

Thou dost float and run,

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

Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight.


All the earth and air

With thy voice is loud,

As, when night is bare,

From one lonely cloud

The moon rains out her beams, and heaven is overflowed.


What thou art we know not;

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:—


Like a poet hidden

In the light of thought;

[270]

Singing hymns unbidden,

Till the world is wrought

To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not.


Teach us, sprite or bird,

What sweet thoughts are thine:

I have never heard

Praise of love or wine

That panted forth a flood of rapture so divine.


Chorus hymeneal

Or triumphal chaunt,

Matched with thine, would be all

But an empty vaunt—

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?

What love of thine own kind? what ignorance of pain?


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!


PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY.


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