An Analysis of John Milton's “Lycidas”
Milton’s 'Lycidas' is a poem in the form of a pastoral elegy written in 1637 to mourn the accidental death of Milton’s friend Edward King. The theme of the elegy is mournful or sadly reflective. Though lyrical, it is not spontaneous, and is often the result of deliberate poetic art. The elegy is a conscious work of art, and not a spontaneous expression of sorrow. The elegiac poet engages himself in discursive reflections. Death, the primary theme of most elegies, is a vast evocative theme. Death can be, and is often, the starting point for the poet to deal with serious themes. Milton, for example, gives us in 'Lycidas', speculations on the nature of death, tributes to friends, and also literary criticism. The central metaphor is the death of a shepherd-poet, who is portrayed in an appropriately idyllic setting. With the pastoral elegy came certain concepts: the mourning of all nature for the loss of the shepherd-poet, and a sort of happy ending, where sadness momentarily turns to joy at the thought of the dead shepherd-poet's immortality. The pastoral elegy uses the mechanism of pastoral convention. He also uses metaphors and great imagery to grasp the concept of the mournful theme and portray an ominous tone. The poem 'Lycidas' can be conveniently divided into six sections a prologue, four main parts, and an epilogue. In the prologue Milton invokes the Muse and explains the reasons for writing the poem. Although Milton had decided not to write poetry till his literary powers matured, “bitter constraint and sad occasion” compels the poet to attempt an elegy (Milton 269). That occasion is the untimely death of Lycidas. Milton writes, “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” (6-9).
Milton's anger with trees is all because of some “sad occasion.” Line eight tells us that the "sad occasion" is the...
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