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To a Skylark

To a Skylark

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Stanza 17 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 81-82

   Waking or asleep,
    Thou of death must deem

  • Now things get a little mysterious, but stick with us Shmoopers. We'll break it down for you.
  • First, the speaker imagines that somewhere, in its dreams or in its waking life, the skylark can see and understand ("deem") things about the true nature of death. This reminds us that he thinks of the skylark as much as an immortal spirit being as an actual natural creature.
  • Where did death come from, you ask? Well, he's been talking about sadness and pain, and death could be the root of all that suffering.

Lines 83-84

   Things more true and deep
    Than we mortals dream,

  • The skylark can see beyond even the dreams of mortals. It understands the deep truth about death, because it cannot die.

Line 85

Or how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream?

  • Why does the speaker think that this bird can see beyond all human perception? Because that's the only way he can imagine that it could make such beautiful music (like a "crystal stream").
  • Remember, this all started because he heard such a beautiful bird song that he thought some immortal spirit was singing.

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