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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 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.
Welter, roll to and
Muses, supposed to
have lived at the foot
of Mount Olympus,
the classical abode of the gods.
Lucky words, &c.,
YET once more, O ye laurels,* and once more,
Shatter your leaves before the mellowing year.
With lucky words * favour my destined urn;
with words of good And bid fair peace be to my sable shroud.*
omen do the same
kindly office for me
Sable shroud, my dark
tomb or grave.
Afield to the fields. Battening, feeding or fattening.
For we were nursed upon the selfsame hill,
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,
But, O the heavy change, now thou art gone,
The willows, and the hazel copses green,
Fanning their joyous leaves to thy soft lays.
45 As killing as the canker* to the rose,
Where were ye, nymphs,*,when the remorseless Nymphs, goddesses
Closed o'er the head of your loved Lycidas ?
Where your old bards,* the famous Druids, lie,
55 Nor yet where Deva* spreads her wizard stream:
Had ye been there for what could that have done?
60 Whom universal nature did lament,
When, by the rout that made the hideous roar,
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
70 Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise
To scorn delights and live laborious days;
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.
"Fame is no plant that grows on mortal soil,
Set off to the world, nor in broad rumour lies:
Of so much fame in heaven expect thy meed."
That strain I heard was of a higher mood:
And listens to the herald of the sea
He ask'd the waves, and ask'd the felon * winds,
And question'd every gust of rugged wings
And sage Hippotades* their answer brings,
and last did go.
Enow* of such, as for their bellies' sake
Blind mouths! that scarce themselves know
how to hold
120 A sheep-hook,* or have learn'd aught* else
That to the faithful herdsman's art belongs!
And, when they list, their lean and flashy
Rot inwardly, and foul contagion * spread :
Alpheus, a stream in
That shrunk thy streams; return, Sicilian Muse, Arcadia, supposed to
be connected with Arethusa.
Flowerets, little flowers.
135 Their bells and flowerets * of a thousand hues.
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,
To strew the laureat hearse * where Lycid lies.
Let our frail* thoughts dally* with false surmise;
Where thou perhaps, under the whelming tide,
Where the great vision of the guarded mount
Weep no more, woeful shepherds, weep no more, 165
Sunk though he be beneath the wat❜ry floor;
And tricks* his beams, and with new-spangled ore 170
Where, other groves and other streams along,
Thus sang the uncouth swain to the oaks and
While the still morn went out with sandals gray;
At last he rose, and twitch'd his mantle blue:
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,