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LYCIDAS.* -John Milton.


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JOAN 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 I 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 ; * Ivy, represented last- And, with forced fingers rude, ing friendship.

Shatter your 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
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. So may some gentle Muse

abode of 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 my

Fed the same flock, by fountain, shade, and rill.

Together both, ere the high lawns appear’d 25
Sable shroud, my dark Under the opening * eyelids of the morn,
tomb or grave.
Openino, &c., at day. We drove afield, * and both together heard

What time the grey fly winds her sultry horn,
Afield to the fields.
Battening, feeding or

Battening our flocks with the fresh dews of fattening.


Oft till the star, that rose at evening bright, 30 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,
Temper'd to the oaten flute ;

[heel Oaten fute, 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 Damoetas * 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,

Canker, something

that gnaws, or eats
Or taint-worm to the weanling * herds that graze, away.
Or frost to flowers, that their gay wardrobe wear, Weanling, lamb
When first the white-thorn blows;

newly weaned.
Such, Lycidas, thy loss to shepherds' ear.
Where were ye, nymphs,* when the remorseless Nymphs, goddesses

who watched

different places.
Closed o'er the head of your loved Lycidas ?
For neither were ye playing on the steep,

Bards, the

Druid Where your old bards,* the famous Druids, lie,

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,

Epic poetry.
When, by the rout that made the hideous roar,
His gory visage down the stream was sent,
Down the swift Hebrus * to the Lesbian shore? Februs (the Maritza),

a river in the south Alas! what boots * it with incessant care

of Turkey. 65 To tend the homely, slighted, shepherd's trade, Boots, here

And strictly meditate the thankless Muse ? profits.
Were it not better done, as others use,
To sport with Amaryllis in the shade,

Or with the tangles of Neæra's hair ?
70 Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise

(That last infirmity of noble minds)
To scorn delights and live laborious days ;
But the fair guerdon * when we hope to find, Guerdon, a rewart

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. praise,”




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Phoebus, Apollo, the Phoebus * replied, and touch'd my trembling
zod of poetry.

ears :
“Fame is no plant that grows on mortal soil,
Nor in the glistering foil
Set off to the world, nor in broad rumour lies :

But lives and spreads aloft by those pure eyes,
the "gods on Mount As he pronounces lastly
Joue, was king of And perfect witness of all-judging Jove;

on each deed, Olympus.

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 cuse,

reeds !
coast of Sicily.
Mincius, the river

That strain I heard was of a higher mood :
Mincio, near Mantua, But now my oat proceeds,

was And listens to the herald of the sea

That came in Neptune's * plea ; Neptune, the god of

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, Hippotades, Æolus, ruler of the winds. That not a blast was from his dungeon * stray'd : Dungeon, close, The air was calm, and on the level brine deep prison. Panope, one of the Sleek Panope * with all her sisters play'd. fifty sea-nymphs. It was that fatal and perfidious * bark, Perfidious, treach.

Built in the eclipse, and rigg'd with curses dark,

That sunk so low that sacred head of thine. Camus, river Next Camus,* reverend sire, went footing slow, * Cam, on which Cam- His mantle hairy, and his bonnet sedge, bridge is built. 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 flower, 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 ! 115 Intrude, to enter without permission.

Uf other care they little reckoning make,
Than how to scramble at the shearers' feast,
And shove away the worthy bidden guest;



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Blind mouths ! that scarce themselves know
how to hold

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

Ye valleys low, where the mild whispers use
Of shades, and wanton* winds, and gushing brooks, Wanton, wandering
On whose fresh lap the swart star* sparely


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,
Bring the rathe * primrose that forsaken dies,

Enamelied, smooth

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,
With cowslips wan that hang the pensive head, Wan, pale.
And every flower that sad embroidery * wears · Sad embroidery,
Bid amaranthus all his beauty shed,

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,





ered bier.




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,
Anon, soon, quickly. And tricks * his beams, and with new-spangled ore 170
Tricks, adorns.

Flames in the forehead of the morning sky:
So Lycidas sunk low, but mounted high,

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,
Quills, pipes.
Ďoric, one of the four With eager thought warbling his Doric* lay :
dialects of the ancient And now the sun had stretch'd out all the hills, 190
Greek language.

And now was dropt into the western bay :
At last he rose, and twitch'd his mantle blue:
To-morrow to fresh woods, and pastures new.


or receive.



Good name, in man and woman,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls.
Who steals my purse, steals trash ; 'tis something, nothing;
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands :
But he that filches from me my good name,
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.


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