To a Skylark
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
To a Skylark Theme of Art and Culture
One of the key ideas in "To a Skylark" is the comparison between the poet and his writing and the skylark and its song. Again and again, the speaker imagines the skylark as a kind of natural artist, and thinks of his own work as being like the bird's song. The only problem is, he doesn't think his song is anywhere near as good as the bird's. So basically this is partly a poem about feeling inferior to a bird. Bummer, man.
Questions About Art and Culture
- Is a sunset always more beautiful than a poem about a sunset? How might the speaker answer that question?
- Do you think birds singing or spiders building their webs are like artists? If not, what's the difference? What would the speaker say?
- Do you think the speaker is more happy or sad about the song of the skylark?
- Is there a kind of instinct in humans to make art, to write poems? If we stopped making art, would we still be human? How might the speaker answer that question?
Chew on This
By combining human art with natural instinct, the poem suggests that making art is a part of what makes us human, just like singing is part of being a bird. You just can't get away from it.
"To a Skylark" conveys the limitations of art, and the impossibility of our songs or poems ever measuring up to the beauty that is all around us. Sad.