A Critique on Lycidas Written by John Milton

Topics: John Milton, Lycidas, Elegy Pages: 3 (1206 words) Published: December 16, 2010
Lycidas is a popular, well-known poem, which was written in the early 1630s by John Milton. The poem is written in the style of pastoral elegy and is dedicated to Edward King a friend of John Milton who drowned out at sea. About 100 years after the poem had already been well known, Samuel Johnson responded forcefully by writing a critique that has also become well renowned. Samuel Johnson, who wrote the English Dictionary, questions the worth of Lycidas. According to Johnson, poetry is an art form that should be praised when its qualities are beautiful, symmetrical and full of passion. John Milton’s Lycidas does not meet any of these standards. Lycidas is a typical pastoral elegy that does not strike any chords of emotion. Cleary Johnson is a fanatic about words. Readers see Lycidas, which has been added to the Canon of English Literature, as a miraculous poem but they fail to see past the fame and glam of the poem. They simply love it because Milton wrote it. Samuel Johnson’s unforgiving opinion of Milton’s Lycidas stems from the poem’s inability to present an accurate experience of loss: Milton gets too involved in his own words, uses this poem as his own political manifesto and is concerned about life as a poet and his fame. Milton destroys the elegy of Lycidas through his obsession with his own opinions and language. The poem’s overuse of pastoral imagery distances the reader from Milton’s loss. Johnson argues that the pastoral imagery is cliché: “Its form is that of a pastoral, easy, vulgar, and therefore disgusting: whatever images it can supply are long ago exhausted” (Johnson). Although the poem is unoriginal and according to Johnson, Milton’s language lacks substance, most readers would not find the poem as repulsive as Johnson makes it out to be. An example of the characteristic pastoral imagery that Johnson finds disgusting in Lycidas is present in lines 22-23: “For we were nurst upon the self-same hill/Fed the same flock by the fountain, shade,...
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