Imagery in Ode To a Skylark

Question: Discuss Shelley’s Use of Imagery in Ode To a Skylark


Image means an exact copy of something or a replica. Imagery is the combined use of images that refers to visually descriptive or figurative language, especially in a literary work. As a romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) has the utmost quality of his imagery since all the romantic poets are sensuous too.

The imagery of the poem

The poem is profuse in images that are very unique and vivid to express the intention of the poet for an ideal world. The images of the poem are symbolic too to express his ideas.

Flying or soaring image of the lark

At the very beginning of the poem, the poet has depicted the flight image of the miniature singing bird. He has recognized the skylark not as a bird but as a ‘blithe spirit’ that is very pure and authentic. Shelley draws the cosmic image to recount the perennial joy and ecstasy of the bird. The skylark has been compared to the stars which are sunken in broad daylight but their existence never dismisses likewise skylark is a bird of ever joy and ecstasy.

“Like a star of Heaven,

In the broad daylight

Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill daylight”

Here shrill daylight is an oxymoron that expresses the romantic agony of the poet for a new pattern of an ideal society.

Charming and intellectual comparing and contrasting images

Shelley has shown a series of comparing and contrasting images that are not only charming but also intellectual. In this series of images, the first of all compare the sweet singing with a poet who bears his thought but he cannot be seen. The poets are fearless to expose. They are not artificial like the authority of the religious institutions.

Like a poet hidden

In the light of thought

Thus, Shelley goes on. He has compared the skylark with the sweet-smelling rose, golden glow-worm, and also with the sweet song of love-laden princes who reality her hearts by singing sweet songs. Here all the images are the symbol of beauty and ideality.

Percy Bysshe Shelley has asserted that the religion has been corrupted which is why the mind-blowing choral hymns are not sweet laudable and the authority also turns into mere tyranny that is why the song of victory is less attractive. But the song of the tiny bird surpasses and is the mere source of ideality.

Image of human society

Like John Keats 91795-1821), Shelley announces that human beings are very frustrated and tensed by past memory and future insecurity. Whatever they have they cannot be satisfied. On the other hand, the world of the skylark is free from excitement and insecurity. Such human image comparing to the world of the skylark is a tendency of escaping from the difficulties of life but at the same time, the poet also requests the beautiful singing bird to teach him the very art that he has so that the poet can scatter his thoughts in the way of the bird among human beings.

Teach me half the gladness

That thy brain must know,

Such harmonious madness

From my lips would flow

The world should listen then, as I am listening now.

Therefore, the poet wants to make human beings free from harsh reality and emphasize the peace and happiness of life.


Now, therefore, it is transparent and clear that the imagery of the poem has an utmost significance of visual description and symbolic meaning to confer the message that a pattern of society based on spontaneity and free from all kinds of malfunction and maladministration can ensure sustainable peace and happiness.

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Biswazit Kumar
Biswazit Kumar
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