Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “To a Skylark” discusses human nature as compared to the “blithe spirit”. Shelley all throughout the poem is sure that Skylark was in joy, he was not in dilemma as Wordsworth when he saw a highland lass and said

Will no one tell me what she sings?
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things.
And Battles long ago:

Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Same natural sorrow, loss or pain,
that has been, and may be again.

Shelley was so sure of Skylark’s happy song that he even that far as to say

Sound of vernal showers
On the twinkling grass,
Rain-awaken’d flowers
All that ever was
Joyous and clear and fresh thy music doth surpass.

As the poem progresses, Shelley starts to compare the human qualities with that of “blithe spirit”. And just a little later he says

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.

Why did Shelley want to scorn fear? What kind of fear does Shelley want to scorn?

2 Answers 2


This line isn't advocating scorning fear. In contrast, it's saying that if we could scorn/reject "hate and pride and fear" - strong emotions that often lead to negative consequences - and if people were born "not to shed a tear", or to not experience sadness, he doesn't know how we could ever achieve close to ("I know not how... we ever should come near") the joy he sees in the skylark ("thy joy"). This is a fairly common idea, that without the strongly negative end of the emotional spectrum, we humans would not be able to access the strongly positive end as well.


Hate, pride, and fear all diminish joy. So does sorrow, which causes people to shed tears.

However, Shelley thinks that even if humans lacked all these things and so were not held back by them, they would not be able to achieve the transcendent joy in the song.


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