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To a Skylark

To a Skylark


by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Stanza 20 Summary

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

Lines 96-97

   Better than all measures
    Of delightful sound,

  • The skylark's song is better than all the human music ("measures") in the world. 
  • Sure, we can plan and scheme and make "delightful sound" but we can't stack up to the skylark.

Lines 98-99

   Better than all treasures
    That in books are found,

  • Guess what? Our books don't cut it either. All the poems and ideas and novels we've stored up are "treasures." But still: they don't match the skylark's song.

Line 100

Thy skill to poet were, thou scorner of the ground!

  • Finally, he comes out and admits it. The poem that the speaker's writing will never be as good as the song he's writing it about. A little bird can make music beyond his description, beyond his power.
  • The simple song of the skylark is more wonderful than even the best human poem.
  • This is the bittersweet irony under this poem. Even if it's moving and beautiful (and we think it is), it's all about the ways that poems fall short, the ways that they fail to measure up to the beauty of the world.

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