Shelley begins his poem "To a Skylark" with a direct address to the skylark. Shelley makes a direct reference to the song as an example of "unpremeditated art," which might also be the term to describe the goal of the Romantic poet--he or she would like each poem to appear to be unpremeditated and to flow from an emotional response to nature more than from calculated rational design. In this way, the poet is imitating nature, and the skylark is for Shelley a representation of the purity of the art of nature, offering a song that is pure expression. The poet's expression of wonder in this poem is in keeping with his view of art and love alike as natural and spontaneous expression.
The speaker is the poet himself, and the poet indicates a relationship between the observation of nature and the art produced by the speaker. The tone of the poem is a tone of wonder and joy as Shelley speaks to the bird and marvels at the ability of the bird to soar so high and to produce such natural art. The bird itself is described as being pure joy--"unbodied joy whose race is just begun" (15). The sound of the bird singing is heard long before the bird itself is seen and creates an awareness of the bird and its beauty in the mind:
The moon rains out her beams--and Heaven is overflowed (26-30).
With the seventh stanza, the tone shifts slightly as the true nature of the bird is shown to be a mystery. The poet seeks the answer to this mystery but can never do more than approximate the underlying truth or imitate the deeper truth of the natural world as shown in the art of the bird. The effect of the bird is beneficial to mankind, and the poet believes that this is the effect of art in all cases, even his own art, limited when compared to that of nature: