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All the earth and air
With thy voice is loud
From one lonely cloud
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,
Till the world is wrought
To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not.
Like a high-born maiden2
Soul in secret hour
With music sweet as love, which overflows her bower.
Like a glow-worm golden
In a dell of dew,
Its aerial hue
Among the flowers and grass, which screen it from the view.
Like a rose embowered
In its own green leaves,
Makes faint with too much sweet these heavy-winged thieves
Sound of vernal showers
On the twinkling grass,
All that ever was
Joyous, and clear, and fresh, thy music doth surpass
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?
With thy clear keen joyance
Languor cannot be :
Shadow of annoyance
Never came near thee:
Thou lovest; but ne'er knew love's sad satiety.
Waking or asleep,
Thou of death must deem
Things more true and deep
Than we mortals dream,
Or how could thy note flow in such a crystal stream?
We look before and after,
And pine for what is not;
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught:
Our sweetest songs are those which tell of saddest thought.
Yet if we could scorn
Hate and pride and fear;
If we were things born
Not to shed a tear,
I know not how thy joy we ever should come near.
Better than all measures
Better than all treasures
That in books are found,
Thy skill to poet were, thou scorner of the ground! 3
Teach me half the gladness,
That thy brain must know;
From my lips would flow,
"In the spring of 1820," says Mrs. Shelley, "we spent a week or two near Leghorn, borrowing the house of some friends, who were absent on a journey to England. It was on a beautiful summer evening, while wandering among the lanes where myrtle hedges were the bowers of the fire-flies, that we heard the carolling of the skylark, which inspired one of the most beautiful of his poems."-Moxon's edition of 1840, p. 278.
Shelley chose the measure of this poem with great felicity. The earnest hurry of the four short lines, followed by the long effusiveness of the Alexandrine, expresses the eagerness and continuity of the lark. There is a luxury of the latter kind in Shakspeare's song, produced by the reduplication of the rhymes :
Hark! hark! the lark at heaven's gate sings,
His steeds to water at those springs
On chalic'd flowers that lies:
"Chalic'd flowers that lies," is an ungrammatical license in use with the most scholarly writers of the time; and, to say the truth, it was a slovenly one; though there is all the difference in the world between the license of power and that of poverty.
1 "In profuse strains of unpremeditated art."-During the prevalence of the unimaginative and unmusical poetry of the last century, it was thought an Alexandrine should always be cut in halves, for the greater sweetness; that is to say, monotony. The truth is, the pause may be thrown anywhere, or even entirely omitted, as in the unhesitating and characteristic instance before us. See also the eighth stanza. The Alexandrines throughout the poem evince the nicest musical feeling.
2 Like a high-born maiden
Mark the accents on the word "love-laden," so beautifully、 earrying on the stress into the next line—
Soothing her love-làden
The music of the whole stanza is of the loveliest sweetness; of energy in the midst of softness; of dulcitude and variety. Not a sound of a vowel in the quatrain resembles that of another, except in the rhymes; while the very sameness or repetition of the sounds in the Alexandrine intimates the revolvement and continuity of the music which the lady is playing. Observe, for instance (for nothing is too minute to dwell upon in such beauty), the contrast of the i and o in "high-born;" the difference of the a in "maiden" from that in "palace;" the strong opposition of maiden to tower (making the rhyme more vigorous in proportion to the general softness); then the new differences in soothing, love-laden, soul, and secret, all diverse from one another, and from the whole strain; and finally, the strain itself, winding up in the Alexandrine with a cadence of particular repetitions, which constitutes nevertheless a new difference on that account, and by the prolongation of the tone.
"It gives a very echo to the seat
There is another passage of Shakspeare which it more particularly calls to mind ;-the
Ditties highly penn'd,
Sung by a fair queen in a summer bower,
But as Shakspeare was not writing lyrically in this passage, nor desirous to fill it with so much love and sentiment, it is no irreverence to say that the modern excels it. The music is carried on into the first two lines of the next stanza :—
Like a glow-worm golden
a melody as happy in its alliteration as in what may be termed its counterpoint. And the coloring of this stanza is as beautiful as the music.
3" Thou scorner of the ground."—A most noble and emphatic close of the stanza. Not that the lark, in any vulgar sense of the word, "scorns" the ground, for he dwells upon it: but that, like the poet, nobody can take leave of common-places with more heavenly triumph.
A GARISH DAY.
(SAID BY A POTENT RUFFIAN.)
The all-beholding sun yet shines; I hear
I see the bright sky through the window-panes;
It is a garish, broad, and peering day;