Unhappiness In Human Beings Essay

1422 words - 6 pages

In Thomas De Quincey's essay "Confessions of an English Opium Eater," the speaker discusses the problems associated with drugs. He suggests that his "dreams were accompanied by deep-seated anxiety and gloomy melancholy, such as are wholly incommunicable by words" (971). However, sadness and gloom do not belong exclusively to addicts as Shelley points out in his poem "To a Skylark." The everyday man also faces the same problem as De Quincey's opium eater as human beings have a tendency to focus on life's sadness. In his poem, Shelley uses the joyous skylark as a contrast to man in order to express the idea that human beings live a seeming unfulfilled life as any pleasure found in life also comes with unhappiness.
The speaker describes the skylark as a happy creature completely pure in its joy and unhampered by sorrow or misery. As the speaker watches the bird, he notes that it seems to soar through the sky "like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun" (ll. 15). The skylark seems to have an unending amount of "joy" as the bird's emotion has "just begun." Furthermore, it's happiness appears of extreme magnitude as it exists "unbodied" which suggests both the sense that nothing can restrain the lark's delight as well as the idea that mortals cannot feel such "joy." In addition, when the skylark flies out of sight the speaker can still "hear thy shrill delight" (ll. 20). Even though the speaker cannot physically see the joyful bird, he still can sense its "shrill delight." Because the lark possesses such intense happiness, the speaker does not need to see it to feel its pure, and thus powerful, emotions. Additionally, the speaker uses a series of metaphors, comparing the skylark with a poet, maiden, glow-worm, and rose in order to emphasize the bird's unique ability to feel such pure happiness. For example, he equates the skylark with a "rose... / Till the scent it gives / Makes faint with too much sweet these heavy-winged thieves" (ll. 51-55). Unlike an ordinary rose, the flower to which the speaker associates the skylark with, has a scent extraordinarily sweet as it causes bees to feel "faint." Thus, the skylark appears to also have an remarkable gift of happiness and joy which ordinary creatures do not have the capacity to feel.
Because of the skylark's unadulterated happiness, the speaker envies the bird's freedom and immortality. The speaker opens the poem with the words, "Hail to thee, blithe Spirit! / Bird thou never wert-- / That from heaven" comes (ll. 1-3). Thus, it seems as though the skylark exists as a divine being or "spirit" worthy of worship, rather than a mere bird. It comes "from heaven" which reinforces its blessed nature. Also, the fact the speaker "hail[s] to" the bird suggests that he worships and praises the skylark. Furthermore, the speaker announces that "I have never heard / Praise of love or wine / That panted forth a flood of rapture so divine" (ll. 63-65). The lark's song...

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