The poem A Lament by P.B. Shelley goes like this

O world! O Life! O Time!
On whose last steps I climb,
Trembling at that where I stood before;
When will return the glory of your prime?
No more, —O never more!

Out of the day and night
A joy has taken flight;
Fresh spring, and summer, and winter hoar
Move my faint heart with grief, but with delight
No more — O never more!

When Shelley wrote “A joy has taken flight” was he making allusions to the skylark whom he called a “blithe spirit”? In his ode “To a Skylark” he called the bird as very joyful and a source of joy for him quite a times. So, it is quite obvious to take that line literally, but if we take it as referring to the blithe spirit the whole poem “A Lament” takes a new luster, but the question is: can we take it like that?

  • It seems to me much more probable that it is an illusion to Wordsworth's Intimations of Immortality: "Whither is fled the visionary gleam? // Where is it now, the glory and the dream?" This might explain the line "Trembling at that where I stood before," which seems to me the most mysterious line in this poem.
    – Peter Shor
    Feb 14 at 12:23

It would be strange to interpret “a joy has taken flight” as referring to the skylark, because the two poems employ different senses of “flight”. In ‘To a Skylark’, it is the noun form of the verb “fly”:

The pale purple even
Melts around thy flight

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1820). ‘To a Skylark’. In Prometheus Unbound, p. 202. London: C. and J. Ollier.

flight, n.1 1.a. The action or manner of flying or moving through the air with or as with wings.

Oxford English Dictionary

Whereas in ‘A Lament’, it is the noun form of the verb “flee”:

flight, n.2 1.a. The action of fleeing or running away from, or as from, danger, etc.

This is clear from the context of ‘A Lament’, in which the speaker says that because joy has fled, his heart will never again be moved with delight. So joy flees, but the skylark flies.

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