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It was the winter wild,
All meanly wrapt in the rude manger lies;
With her great Master so to sympathize;
No war, or battle's sound
Was heard the world around, < The idle spear and shield were high up hung;
The hooked chariot stood
Unstain'd with hostile blood;
The trumpet spake not to the armed throng;
And kings sat still with awful eye,
As if they surely knew their sovereign Lord was by.
But peaceful was the night,
His reign of peace upon the earth began:
Whispering new joys to the mild ocean,
While birds of calm sit brooding on the charmed wave.
The stars, widi deep amaze,
Bending one way their precious influence;
Or Lucifer, that often wam'd them thence;
The shepherds on the lawn,
Sat simply chatting in a rustic row;
Was kindly conic to live with them below;
When such music sweet
A» never was by mortal finger strook •
As all tlieir souls in blissful rapturo took:
The oracles are dumb,
Runs through the arched roof in words deceiving.
With hollow shriek the steep of Dclphos leaving.
The lonely mountains o'er
A voice of weeping heard and loud lament;
The parting Genius is with sighing sent:
The Nymphs, in twilight shade of tangled thickets, mourn
In consecrated earth,
The Lars and Lemurcs moan with midnight plaint;
Affrights the Flamens at their service quaint;
But see, the Virgin bless'd
Time is, our tedious song should here have ending:
Her sleeping Lord with handmaid lamp attending.
In this Monody, the author bewails a learned friend, unfortunately drowned in mi passage from Chester on the Irish seas, 1637: and by occasion foretells the ruin of our corrupted clergy, then in their highth.
Yet once more, 0 yo laurels, and once more,
1 Tula poem was made upon the unfortunate and untimely death of Mr. Edward King, son of Sn John Kine, Secretary for Ireland, a fellow collegian and intimate friend of Mtlton, who, an he was going to visit hla ndaUons In Ireland, was drowned, August 10, 1637, In the 2Sth year of his age. Dr KcwtOD baa observed, that Lycidas is with great judgment made of the pastoral kind, as both Mr
I come to pluck your berries harsli and crude;
Shatter your leaves before the mellowing year: 5
Who would not sing for Lycidas'? he knew lO
Begin then, Sisters of the sacred well, 1 ft
That from beneath the scat of Jove doth spring!
With lucky words favor my destined urn; 20
And, as he passes, turn,
And bid fair peace be lo my sable shroud.
For we were nursed upon the self-same hill,
Fed the same flock by fountain, shade, and rill.
Together both, ere the high lawns appear d 25
Under the opening eyelids of the morn,
We drove afield; and both together heard
What time the gray-fly winds her sultry horn,
Battening our flocks with the fresh dews of night,
Oft till the star, that rose at evening, bright, 30
Toward Heaven's descent had sloped his westering wheel.
Meanwhile the rural ditties were not mute,
Temper'd to the oaten flute;
King and Muton had been designed tor holy orders and the pastoral care, which gives a peculiar propriety to several passages In It
Addison says, "that he who desires to know whether he has a true taste tor history or not, should consider whether he Is pleased with Llvy's manner of telling a story; so, perhaps It may be sahl, tliat he who wishes to know whether he has a true taste for poetry or not, should consider whethrt he Is highly delighted or not with the perusal of Milton's Lycidas."—/. Wurton.
"Whatever stern grandeur Milton's two epics and his drama, written in his latter days, exhibit; by whatever divine Invention they arc created; Lycidas and Comas have a fluency, a sweetness, n melody, a youthful freshness, a dewy brightness of description, which those gigantic poems have not. The prime charm of poetry, the rapidity and the novelty, yet the natural association of beautiful Ideas, Is pre-eminenUy exhibited In Lycidas; and it strikes me, that there Is no poem of Milton, In which the pastoral and rural imagery is so breathing, so brilliant, and so new as this."—Sir Egtrto*
"i shall never cease to consider this monody as the sweet effusion of a most poetic and tender mind; enUtleil as well by its beautiful mclojy as by the rrequent grandeur of Its scnUmcnts and language, to the utmost enthusiasm of admiration."—Todd.
Line 3. This is a bcauUful allusion to the unripe age of his friend, In which death "shatterM hut k*n7es before the mellowing year."
L. 15. "The sacred well," Helicon.
L. 35. "Prom the regularity of his pursuits, the purity of his pleasures, his temperance, and general simplicity of life, Milton habitually became an early riser; hence he gained an acquaintance with Uie beauties of the morning, which he so frequcnuy contemplated with delight, and has therefore so repeatedly described In all their various appearances."— T. Warton.
I.. 37. "We drove arte Id," that Is, we drove our flocks afield.
I. 23. The "sultry horn," is the sharp hum of this Insect at noon.
Rough Satyrs danced, and Fauns with cloven heel
From the glad sound would not be absent long; 35
And old Damretas loved to hear our song.
But, O, the heavy change, now thou art gone,
As killing as the canker to the rose, 45
Where were ye, Nymphs, when the remorseless deep 50
Nor yet where Deva spreads her wizard stream. 35
Had ye been there—for what could that havo done?
Whom universal Nature did lament, CO
Alas! what boots it with unccssant care
Fame is the spur that tho clear spirit doth raise, 70
(That last infirmity of noble mind)
To scorn delights, and live laborious days;
But the fair guerdon when we hope to find,
And think to bnrst out into sudden blaze,
Comes the blind Fury with the abhorred shears, 75
Line So. "Where were yet" "This burst In as magnificent as It Isanoctlng."— Sir E. Brydgti.
r_ as. Reference Is here made to Orpheus, torn In pieces by the Bacchanalians, whose murdere. s are called "the rout." "Lycidas, as a poet. Is here tacitly compared wtUi Orpheus: they were both also victims of the water."—T. H'urton.
L. 70, sc. "No lines have been more often cited, and more popular than these; nor more Justiy Instructive and Inspiriting."— Sir Egerton Brydgt*.
L. 70. "But not the praise;" that is, but the praise ts not Intercepted. "While the poet, in Oie character of a shepherd, Is moralizing on the uncertainty of human life, Phoebus interposes with a suhlitne strain, above the tone of pastoral poetry: he then, in an abrupt and elliptical apostrophe, at *o fountain Arethusehastily recollects himself, and apologizes to his rural Muse, jrin other words to Arethnaa and Mlncius, the celebrated streams of bucolic song, for having so suddenly departed from pastoral allusions and the tenor of h> subject."— V. Wiirtm.
Phoebus replied, and touch'd my trembling cars;
Set off to the world, nor in broad rumor lies; 80
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 tame in Heaven expect thy meed."
O fountain Arethuse, and thou honor'd flood, 85
That came in Neptune's plea: 9 J
He ask'd the waves, and ask'd the felon winds,
What hard mishap hath doom'd this gentle swain 1
And question'd every gust of rugged wings
That blows from ofl" each beaked promontory:
They knew not of his story; 95
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, 1 DO
Built in the eclipse, and rigg'd with curses dark,
Next Camus, reverend sire, went footing slow,
Inwrought with figures dim, and on the edge 105
Two massy keys he bore of metals twain, 110
(The golden opes, the iron shuts amain,)
He shook his mitred locks, and stern bespake:
How well could I have spared for thee, young swain,
Enow of such, as for their bellies' sake
Creep, and intrude, and climb into the fold? 115
Line 91. "The felon winds," that Is, the cruel winds.
L. los, "Camus." This Is the river Cam, on the borders of which was the University of Cambridge, where Lycldas was educated.
L. 104. The "hairy manUc" Joined with the " sedge bonnet" may mean the rushy or reedy banks of the Cam; and the "figures dint" refer, It Is Uiought, to the indistinct and dusky streaks on sedge leaves or flags when dried.
L. 109. "The pilot of the Galilean lake," the apostle Peter.
L. 114. He here animadverts on the endowments of the church, at the same time Insinuating that they were shared by those only who sought the emoluments of the sacred office, to the exclusion of a learned and conscientious clergy. Thus In Paradise Lost, lv. 195, alluding I? Satan, he says :—
So clotnb this first grand thief Into God's fold;
So since Into his clmrth lewd l.lrelings climb.