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LYCIDAS.* -John Milton.
JOHN MILTON (1608–1674) among English poets ranks next to Shakspeare. His youth was spent in long and very earnest study; and to what he thus acquired, he added still more by travelling in foreign countries. He was Latin cretary to Oliver Cromwell
, and for the last twenty-two years of his life was totally blind. Chief poems : L’Allegro and Il Penseroso, Comus, Lycidas, Samson Agonistes ; Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, in which he has discarded rhyme, and given us the most splendid specimen of blank verse in the language. Laurel is a symbol Yet once more, O ye laurels,* and once more, of glory. Myrtle, dedicated to Ye myrtles * brown, with ivy* never sere, Venus, was symboli- I come to pluck your berries harsh and crude ; * cal of love. Ivy, represented last- And, with forced fingers rude, ing friendship.
leaves before the mellowing year. 5 Sere, dry, faded, Bitter constraint, and sad occasion dear, withered. Crude, unripe.
Compels me to disturb * your season due: To disturb, &c., to For Lycidas is dead, dead ere his prime, disturb before
due Young Lycidas, and hath not left his peer: season, before
the proper time. Who would not sing for Lycidas ? he knew
IO Himself to sing, and build the lofty rhyme.
He must not float upon his wat’ry bier Welter, roll to and
Unwept, and welter * to the parching wind, Meed, reward.
Without the meed * of some melodious tear. * Melodious tear, a la- Begin then, Sisters * of the sacred well, 15 mentation in verse.
That from beneath the seat of Jove doth spring ; Sisters, &c., the nine Muses, supposed to Begin, and somewhat loudly sweep the string ; have lived at the foot Hence with denial vain, and coy excuse : of Mount Olympus, the classical abode of So may some gentle Muse * the gods.
With lucky words * favour my destined urn; Muse, poet.
And, as he passes, turn, Lucky words, &c., with words of good And bid fair peace be to my sable shroud.* omen do the same
For we were nursed upon the selfsame hill, kindly office for me when I am in ney
Fed the same flock, by fountain, shade, and rill.
Together both, ere the high lawns appear'd 25
What time the grey fly winds her sultry horn,
Battening * our flocks with the fresh dews of fattening.
Oft till the star, that rose at evening bright, Westering, going to Toward heaven's descent had sloped his westering * wards the west.
* Lycidas : in this poem Milton bewails a learned friend, Edward King, unfortunately drowned in his passage from Chester, on the Irish Sea, 1637. The name Lycidas was adopted from the Greek poet Theocritus.
Meanwhile the rural ditties were not mute,
Oaten flute, the shep
herds' pipe, made of Rough Satyrs * danced, and Fauns * with cloven dry oat straws. 35 From the glad sound would not be absent long; Satyrs and Fauns, And old Damætas * loved to hear our song.
according to the an.
cients, were demiBut, О the heavy change, now thou art gone, gods, half man, halt Now thou art gone, and never must return !
goat, who attended
upon Bacchus, Thee, shepherd, thee the woods, and desert caves, Damætas, one of Vir40 With wild thyme and the gadding* vine o'ergrown, gil's characters, but And all their echoes, mourn :
here referring to their
college tutor, The willows, and the hazel copses green,
Gadding, winding Shall now no more be seen
about, straggling. Fanning their joyous leaves to thy soft lays. 45 As killing as the canker * to the rose,
that gnaws, or eats Or taint-worm to the weanling * herds that graze,
newly weaned. Such, Lycidas, thy loss to shepherds' ear. 50 Where were ye, nymphs,* when the remorseless Nymphs, goddesses
poets. Nor on the shaggy top of Mona * high,
Mona, the Isle of 55 Nor yet where Deva * spreads her wizard stream: Anglesea.
Deva, the river Dee, Ay me! I fondly dream,
in olden times said Had ye been there : for what could that have done? to have been the What could the Muse herself that Orpheus * bore,
haunt of magicians.
Orpheus was the son The Muse herself, for her enchanting son, of Calliope, the Muse 60 Whom universal nature did lament,
of Epic poetry.
a river in the south
of Turkey. 65 To tend the homely, slighted, shepherd's trade, Boots, here
And strictly meditate the thankless Muse? profits.
Or with the tangles of Neæra's hair ?
(That last infirmity of noble minds)
And think to burst out into sudden blaze, 75 Cornes the blind Fury * with the abhorred shears, Fury, Atropos, one And slits the thin - spun life. “But not the
of the three Fates.
Phoebus, Apollo, the Phæbus* replied, and touch'd my trembling
“Fame is no plant that grows on mortal soil,
But lives and spreads aloft by those pure eyes,
lastly, Of so much fame in heaven expect thy meed." gives a final decision.
O fountain Arethuse,* and thou honour'd flood, 85 Arethuse, a celebrated fountain near Syra- Smooth-sliding Mincius,* crown'd with vocal
reeds! coast of Sicily.
That strain I heard was of a higher mood : Mincius, the river Mincio, near Mantua, But now my oat proceeds, where Virgil was And listens to the herald of the sea born.
That came in Neptune's * plea ; Neptune, the god of
90 He ask'd the waves, and ask'd the felon * winds, Felon, wicked, cruel. What hard mishap * bath doom'd * this gentle Mishap, ill-luck, mis
swain ? * Doomed, condemned And question'd every gust of rugged wings to punishment. Swain, a young man. That blows from off each beaked promontory: His story, what had They knew not of his story ;
95 happened to him.
And sage Hippotades * their answer brings,
close, The air was calm, and on the level brine
Built in the eclipse, and rigg'd with curses dark,
That sunk so low that sacred head of thine.
His mantle hairy, and his bonnet sedge, Footing slow, allud- Inwrought with figures dim, and on the edge 105 ing to the slow, slug. Like to that sanguine flower * inscribed with woe. gish course of the Cam.
“Ah! who hath reft," quoth he, “my dearest Sanguine flowcr, the hyacinth. Pledge, child,
Last came, and last did go. Pilot, &c., St. Peter, The pilot * of the Galilean lake; head
the Two massy keys he bore of metals twain Church, who had a boat on the Sea of The golden opes, the iron shuts amain),* Galilee.
He shook his mitred locks, and stern bespake : Amain, with force.
“How well could I have spared for thee, young
swain, Enow, enough, Enow * of such, as for their bellies' sake plenty
Creep. and intrude,* and climb into the fold! Intrude,
115 without permission.
Of other care they little reckoning make,
does it matter
Blind mouths ! that scarce themselves know
Sheep-hook, alluding 220 A sheep-hook,* or have learn'd aught * else to the bishop's crozier, the least
which is in shape like
& shepherd's crook. That to the faithful herdsman's art belongs ! Aught, anything. What recks it them ?* What need they? They What recks, &c., what are sped ; *
them. And, when they list, their lean and flashy * songs Sped, provided for.
Grate on their scrannel * pipes of wretched straw; Flashy, showy, with125 The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed,
out any real value,
Scrannel, producing But, swollen with wind and the rank * mist they a weak screeching draw,*
Rank, here means a Rot inwardly, and foul contagion * spread :
very bad taste Besides what the grim wolf with privy paw
Draw, breathe into. Daily devours apace, and nothing said :
Contagion, a catching 130 But that two-handed engine at the door
disease. Stands ready to smite once, and smite no more.
Return, Alpheus,* the dread voice is past, Alpheus, a stream in That shrunk thy streams; return, Sicilian Muse, Arcadia, supposed to
And call the vales, and bid them hither cast 135 Their bells and flowerets * of a thousand hues. Flowerets, little
Swart star, the doglooks ; Throw hither all your quaint * enamell d * eyes, dom, sparingly.
Sparely, rarely, sel140 That on the green turf suck the honey'd showers, Quaint, curious look.
And purple all the ground with vernal flowers. ing, fanciful,
and glossy The tufted crow-toe, and pale jessamine,
Rathe, early. The white pink, and the pansy freak'd * with jet, Freaked, spotted or 145 The glowing violet,
The musk-rose, and the well-attired woodbine,
mourning attire, 150 And daffodillies fill their cups with tears, To strew the laureat hearse * where Lycid lies. Laureat hearse, an
ciently a monument For, so to interpose a little ease,
to the memory of the Let our frail * thoughts dally* with false surmise; dead, the laurel-covAy me! whilst thee the shores and sounding seas
Frail, weak 155 Wash far away, where'er thy bones are hurld, Dally, delay, linger. Whether beyond the stormy Hebrides, *
Hebrides, two groups
of islands on the west Where thou perhaps, under the whelming tide,
of Scotland. Visit'st the bottom of the monstrous world ; Bellerus, St. Michael's Or whether thou, to our moist vows denied,
Mount, Cornwall :
anciently called Bel. roo Sleep'st by the fable of Bellerus * old,
when he sets.
on the sea,
Where the great vision of the guarded mount Namancos, near Cape Looks toward Namancos * and Bayona's * hold : Finisterre, in Spain. Look homeward, angel, now, and melt with ruth :*
, on the south-west coast And, O ye dolphins,* waft the hapless youth. of France. Ruth, pity, mercy.
Weep no more, woeful shepherds, weep no more, 165 Dolphin, an animal For Lycidas your sorrow is not dead, about ten feet long, Sunk though he be beneath the wat’ry floor ; of the whale tribe. Day star, the So sinks the day-star * in the ocean bed,
And yet anon * repairs his drooping head,
Flames in the forehead of the morning sky:
Through the dear might of Him that walk'd the
waves; waves, the miracle of our Lord walking Where, other groves and other streams along, With nectar * pure
oozy * locks he laves, 175 Nectar, the drink of And hears the unexpressive * nuptial song, the gods ; very pleasant, sweet drink In the blest kingdoms meek of joy and love. Oozý, muddy, slimy. There entertain * him all the saints above, Laves, washes, Unexpressive, not to In solemn troops, and sweet societies, be expressed, beyond That sing, and, singing, in their glory move, 180 description.
And wipe the tears for ever from his eyes. Nuptial song, song of a wedding.
Now, Lycidas, the shepherds weep no more ; Entertain, to amuse Henceforth thou art the genius * of the shore, Genius, the guardian
In thy large recompense, and shalt be good spirit.
To all that wander in that perilous * flood. 185 Perilous, dangerous.
Thus sang the uncouth swain to the oaks and
While the still morn went out with sandals gray; Stops, holes.
He touch'd the tender stops * of various quills,
And now was dropt into the western bay :
Good name, in man and woman,