To a Skylark
Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!Bird thou never wert,That from Heaven, or near it,Pourest thy full heartIn profuse strains of unpremeditated art.
Higher still and higherFrom the earth thou springestLike a cloud of fire;The deep blue thou wingest,And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.
In the golden lightningOf the setting sun,O'er which clouds are bright'ning,Thou dost float and run;Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun.
The pale purple evenMelts around thy flight;Like a star of Heaven,In the broad daylightThou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight,
Keen as are the arrowsOf that silver sphere,Whose intense lamp narrowsIn the white dawn clearUntil we hardly see -- we feel that it s there.
All the earth and airWith thy voice is loud,As, when night is bare,From one lonely cloudThe moon rains out her beams, and Heaven is overflowed.
What thou art we know not;What is most like thee?From rainbow clouds there flow notDrops so bright to seeAs from thy presence showers a rain of melody.
Like a Poet hiddenIn the light of thought,Singing hymns unbidden,Till the world is wroughtTo sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not:
Like a high born maidenIn a palace tower,Soothing her love-ladenSoul in secret hourWith music sweet as love, which overflows her bower:
Like a glowworm goldenIn a dell of dew,Scattering unbeholdenIts aërial hueAmong the flowers and grass, which screen it from the view!
Like a rose emboweredIn its own green leaves,By warm winds deflowered,Till the scent it givesMakes faint with too much sweet those heavy-wingéd thieves:
Sound of vernal showersOn the twinkling grass,Rain-awakened flowers,All that ever wasJoyous, and clear, and fresh, thy music doth surpass:
Teach us, Sprite or Bird,What sweet thoughts are thine:I have never heardPraise of love or wineThat panted forth a flood of rapture so divine.
Chorus Hymeneal,Or triumphal chant,Matched with thine would be allBut an empty vaunt,A thing wherein we feel there is some hidden want.
What objects are the fountainsOf 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 joyanceLanguor cannot be:Shadow of annoyanceNever came near thee:Thou lovest -- but ne'er knew love's sad satiety.
Waking or asleep,Thou of death must deemThings more true and deepThan we mortals deamm,Or how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream?
We look before and after,And pine for what is not:Our sincerest laughterWith some pain is fraught;Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.
Yet if we could scornHate, and pride, and fear;If we were things bornNot to shed a tear,I know not how thy joy we ever should come near.
Better than all measuresOf delightful sound,Better than all treasuresThat in books are found,Thy skill to poet were, thou scorner of the ground!
Teach me half the gladnessThat thy brain must know,Such harmonious madnessFrom my lips would flowThe world should listen then -- as I am listening now.--Percy Bysshe Shelley
I don't know whether to prefer the Shelley version or the Johnny Mercer-Hoagy Carmichael version. But then I don't really have to choose, do I?