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 Secretary 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.

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Welter, roll to and

Meed, reward.
Melodious tear, a la-
mentation in verse.
Sisters, &c., the nine

Muses, supposed to

have lived at the foot

of Mount Olympus,

the classical abode of the gods.

Muse, poet.

Lucky words, &c.,


YET once more, O ye laurels,* and once more,
Ye myrtles* brown, with ivy* never sere,
I come to pluck your berries harsh and crude ;'
And, with forced fingers rude,


Shatter your leaves before the mellowing year.
Bitter constraint, and sad occasion dear,
Compels me to disturb * your season due:
For Lycidas is dead, dead ere his prime,
Young Lycidas, and hath not left his peer:
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
Unwept, and welter to the parching wind,
Without the meed * of some melodious tear.*
Begin then, Sisters of the sacred well,
That from beneath the seat of Jove doth spring;
Begin, and somewhat loudly sweep the string;
Hence with denial vain, and coy excuse:
So may some gentle Muse



With lucky words * favour my destined urn;
And, as he passes, turn,

with words of good And bid fair peace be to my sable shroud.*

omen do the same

kindly office for me
when I am in my

Sable shroud, my dark
Opening, &c., at day-

tomb or grave.


Afield to the fields. Battening, feeding or fattening.

For we were nursed upon the selfsame hill,
Fed the same flock, by fountain, shade, and rill.
Together both, ere the high lawns appear'd
Under the opening * eyelids of the morn,
We drove afield,* and both together heard
What time the grey fly winds her sultry horn,
Battening our flocks with the fresh dews of



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,
Temper'd to the oaten flute;
Rough Satyrs danced, and Fauns* with cloven
35 From the glad sound would not be absent long;
And old Damotas * loved to hear our song.

But, O the heavy change, now thou art gone,
Now thou art gone, and never must return!
Thee, shepherd, thee the woods, and desert caves,
40 With wild thyme and the gadding* vine o'ergrown,
And all their echoes, mourn:

The willows, and the hazel copses green,
Shall now no more be seen

Fanning their joyous leaves to thy soft lays.

45 As killing as the canker* to the rose,
Or taint-worm to the weanling* herds that graze,
Or frost to flowers, that their gay wardrobe wear,
When first the white-thorn blows;
Such, Lycidas, thy loss to shepherds' ear.


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Where were ye, nymphs,*,when the remorseless Nymphs, goddesses

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

Where your old bards,* the famous Druids, lie,
Nor on the shaggy top of Mona* high,

55 Nor yet where Deva* spreads her wizard stream:
Ay me! I fondly dream,

Had ye been there for what could that have done?
What could the Muse herself that Orpheus * bore,
The Muse herself, for her enchanting son,

60 Whom universal nature did lament,

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?

Alas! what boots * it with incessant care

who watched over different places.

Bards, the Druid poets.

Mona, the Isle of


Deva, the river Dee, in olden times said to have been the haunt of magicians.

Orpheus was the son of Calliope, the Muse of Epic poetry.

Hebrus (the Maritza),

a river in the south of Turkey.


65 To tend the homely, slighted, shepherd's trade, Boots, here
And strictly meditate the thankless Muse?
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,
And think to burst out into sudden blaze,


Guerdon, a reward.

"But not the

of the three Fates.

75 Comes the blind Fury * with the abhorred shears, Fury, Atropos, one

And slits the thin-spun life.



Phoebus, Apollo, the Phoebus replied, and touch'd my trembling

god of poetry.

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"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,
And perfect witness of all-judging Jove;
As he pronounces lastly* on each deed,



Of so much fame in heaven expect thy meed."
O fountain Arethuse,* and thou honour'd flood, 85
Smooth-sliding Mincius,* crown'd with vocal

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

And listens to the herald of the sea
That came in Neptune's plea;

He ask'd the waves, and ask'd the felon * winds,
What hard mishap* hath doom'd* this gentle
swain ? *

And question'd every gust of rugged wings
That blows from off each beaked promontory:
They knew not of his story;


And sage Hippotades* their answer brings,
That not a blast was from his dungeon* stray'd:
The air was calm, and on the level brine
Sleek Panope* with all her sisters play'd.
It was that fatal and perfidious* bark,
Built in the eclipse, and rigg'd with curses dark,
That sunk so low that sacred head of thine.
Next Camus,* reverend sire, went footing slow,*
His mantle hairy, and his bonnet sedge,
Inwrought with figures dim, and on the edge
Like to that sanguine flower* inscribed with woe.
"Ah! who hath reft," quoth he, "my dearest
pledge ?” *



and last did go.
The pilot of the Galilean lake;
Two massy keys he bore of metals twain
(The golden opes, the iron shuts amain),*
He shook his mitred locks, and stern bespake :
"How well could I have spared for thee, young

Enow* of such, as for their bellies' sake
Creep, and intrude,* and climb into the fold!
Of other care they little reckoning make,
Than how to scramble at the shearers' feast,
And shove away the worthy bidden guest;







Blind mouths! that scarce themselves know

how to hold

120 A sheep-hook,* or have learn'd aught* else
the least

That to the faithful herdsman's art belongs!
What recks it them?* What need they? They

are sped;




And, when they list, their lean and flashy
Grate on their scrannel * pipes of wretched straw;
125 The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed,
But, swollen with wind and the rank * mist they

Rot inwardly, and foul contagion * spread :
Besides what the grim wolf with privy paw
Daily devours apace, and nothing said:
130 But that two-handed engine at the door
Stands ready to smite once, and smite no more."
Return, Alpheus,* the dread voice is past,

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Alpheus, a stream in

That shrunk thy streams; return, Sicilian Muse, Arcadia, supposed to
And call the vales, and bid them hither cast

be connected with Arethusa.

Flowerets, little flowers.

135 Their bells and flowerets * of a thousand hues.
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


at pleasure.

Swart star, the dogstar.

Sparely, rarely, seldom, sparingly. Quaint, curious look

looks; Throw hither all your quaint* enamell'd * eyes, 140 That on the green turf suck the honey'd showers, And purple all the ground with vernal flowers. Bring the rathe* primrose that forsaken dies, The tufted crow-toe, and pale jessamine, 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,
And every flower that sad embroidery* wears:
Bid amaranthus all his beauty shed,
150 And daffodillies fill their cups with tears,

To strew the laureat hearse * where Lycid lies.
For, so to interpose a little ease,

Let our frail* thoughts dally* with false surmise;
Ay me! whilst thee the shores and sounding seas
155 Wash far away, where'er thy bones are hurl'd,
Whether beyond the stormy Hebrides,*

Where thou perhaps, under the whelming tide,
Visit'st the bottom of the monstrous world;
Or whether thou, to our moist vows denied,
160 Sleep'st by the fable of Bellerus * old,

ing, fanciful.
and glossy.
Rathe, early.



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Where the great vision of the guarded mount
Looks toward Namancos* and Bayona's* hold:
Look homeward, angel, now, and melt with ruth:
And, O ye dolphins,* waft the hapless youth.

Weep no more, woeful shepherds, weep no more, 165
For Lycidas your sorrow is not dead,

Sunk though he be beneath the wat❜ry floor;
So sinks the day-star* in the ocean bed,
And yet anon* repairs his drooping head,

And tricks* his beams, and with new-spangled ore 170
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


Where, other groves and other streams along,
With nectar* pure his oozy * locks he laves,
And hears the unexpressive* nuptial song,"
In the blest kingdoms meek of joy and love.
There entertain* him all the saints above,
In solemn troops, and sweet societies,
That sing, and, singing, in their glory move,
And wipe the tears for ever from his eyes.
Now, Lycidas, the shepherds weep no more;
Henceforth thou art the genius* of the shore,
In thy large recompense, and shalt be good
To all that wander in that perilous * flood.

Thus sang the uncouth swain to the oaks and


While the still morn went out with sandals gray;
He touch'd the tender stops of various quills,'
With eager thought warbling his Doric * lay:
And now the sun had stretch'd out all the hills,
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.






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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