The Poetry of John Milton Analysis
This paper, by referring to John Milton’s poems “Lycidas” and “Arcades”, examines the relationship between these works and occasions for which they were written; as well as explores the extent to which the author directly addresses the original purpose of these poems.
“Lycidas” was Milton’s contribution to the volume of memorial works written on the occasion of King Edward’s death. King and Milton were almost the same age and would have known each other in Cambridge, but there is no evidence to suggest that they were close friends. The title and name of Lycidas carry a number of literary reflections; he is a piper in the world of Theocritus, and a shepherd in Virgil’s Eclogues (Patterson 65). These roles are customarily associated with those of poet and priest and Milton presents Lycidas-King as both.
“Lycidas” is brief, 193 lines in total, and could be called to be the most complex short poem in English. It is excellent in its misuse of the sole purpose of why it was produced in the first place. Even though the King is supposed to be the subject of the poem, Milton uses it to illustrate his own views on religion and world in general.
The opening is traditional, yet puzzling:
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.
There is nothing unusual about this routine writing strategy but what causes one to suspect that something else is about to occur is the phrasing of “with forced fingers rude/Shatter your leaves…” (Patterson 67). Next, Lycidas is celebrated as shepherd and poet and the passage which has been looked at as both biographical and controversial is the verse paragraph of lines 25-6, in which Milton presents himself and Lycidas-King together as shepherd-poets in what is assumed by editors to be the gardens and meadows surrounding Cambridge colleges.
Milton appears to be as much promoting his own extraordinary talents as he is memorializing King’s, and a little later (37-8) he reminds us that “now thou art gone/Now thou art gone, and never must return!” He follows this (50-63) with a strange passage which deals specifically with King’s death, because he states that King’s poetic and intellectual promise were of no practical benefit at his untimely death (Patterson 68).
Where were ye nymphs when the remorseless deep
Closed o’er the head of your loved Lycidas? (Milton lines 50-51)