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To a Skylark

To a Skylark


by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Stanza 5 Summary

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

Line 21-22

   Keen as are the arrows
    Of that silver sphere,

  • What we have here is the speaker comparing the shrill sound of the skylark's voice to the light that comes from a "silver sphere" in the sky.
  • Instead of just referring to beams of light, though, the speaker uses a metaphor, which represents the light as "keen" (sharp) arrows. To make things more complex, though, the metaphor is in turn locked into a simile. Following from line 20, the speaker describes the bird's "shrill delight" by saying that it is as shrill as the sharpness of these metaphorical arrows.

Lines 23-24

   Whose intense lamp narrows
    In the white dawn clear

  • More clues here. It could be that the sphere in line 22 is most likely Venus, the morning star, which shines brightly and then fades away.
  • Again, there's a feeling that this is all a little overwhelming, even dangerous. This bird isn't just a calm little songbird. Its voice shoots out like blazing sharp arrows of light (or, in another metaphor, like beams from an "intense lamp"). 
  • We're kind of embarrassed to say this, but we think this bird is a little scary, what with all the "shrill delight" and "keen arrows" and what have you. (Check our "Best of the Web" section for a picture of a skylark—then you'll see why it's embarrassing to be scared of them.)

Line 25

Until we hardly see, we feel that it is there.

  • This line is an echo of the simile in the last stanza (lines 18-20). Now it is Venus that is there, but almost impossible to see. 
  • This is another way of making the bird seem almost-ghostlike. When the speaker calls it a "Spirit" in the beginning, that sets the tone for the whole poem. The idea of the spirit bird comes up over and over again.

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