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I come to pluck your berries harsh and crude,
Yet once more, has an allusion not merely to some of Milton's former poems on similar occasions, but to his poetical compositions in general, or rather to his last poem, which was Comus. He would say, “I am again, in “ the midst of other studies, un“expectedly, and unwillingly “called back to poetry, &c.” Neither are the plants here mentioned, as some have suspected, appropriated to elegy. They are symbolical of general poetry. Theocritus, in a Epigram cited in the next note, dedicates myrtles to Apollo. In the mean time, I would not exclude another probable implication: by plucking the berries and the leaves of laurel, myrtle, and ivy, he might intend to point out the pastoral or rural turn of his poem. T. Warton.
2. Ye myrtles brown.] Bronn and black are classical epithets for the myrtle. Theocritus, Epig. i. 3.
dialect, by which in English we are to understand an antiquated style. But of the three or four words in Lycidas which even we now call obsolete, almost all are either used in Milton's other poems, or were familiar to readers and writers of verse in the year 1638. The word sere, or dry, in the text, one of the most uncommon of these words, occurs in P. L. b. x. 1071. And in our author's Psalms, ii. 27. T. Warton.
3. I come to pluck your berries harsh and crude,) This beautiful allusion to the unripe age of his friend, in which death shattered his leaves before the mellowing year, is not antique, I think, but of those secret graces of Spenser. See his Eclogue of January in the Shepherd's Calendar. The poet there says of himself under the name of Colin Clout,
Also my lustful leaf is dry and sere. Richardson.
5. Shatter your leaves before the melloning year.] So in P. L. b. x. 1066.
—shattering the graceful locks
6. Bitter constraint, and sad occasion dear, So in Spenser, Faery Queen, b. i. cant. i. st. 53. Love of yourself, she said, and dear coustraint, Let me not sleep, but waste the weary night In secret anguish, and unpitied plaint.
Richardson. Indeplorato non comminuere sepul
Compels me to disturb your season due:
10. Who would not sing for Lycidas?] Virgil, Ecl. x. 3.
—neget quis carmina Gallo?
He knew, in Milton's Manuscript
Non hic cothurni sanguine insonti rubeat, Nec flagra Megaerae ferrea horrendum intonant; Noverca nulla saevior Erebo furit; Venena nulla, praeter illa dulcia Amoris; atque his vim abstulere noxiam Castilepores, innocua festivitas, . Nativa suavitas, proba clegantia, &c.
He also appears with credit in the Cambridge Public Verses of his time. He has a copy of Latin iambics, in the Anthologia on the King's Recovery, Cantab. 1632, 4to, p. 43. Of Latin ele
giacs, in the Genethliacum Acad.
De Arte poet. 436.
—si carmina condes.
11. Euripides says still more boldly, because more specifically, “Aoix; EIIYPTOx.E.” Suppl. v. 997. Hurd. The lofty rhyme is “the lofty “ verse.” See P. L. b. i. 16. T. Warton. 12. He must not float upon his nat'ry bier.] So Johnson, in &#io Revells, acted by the boys of Queen Elizabeth's Chapel, 1600, a. i. s. 2. —Sing some mourning straine Over his watric hearse.
13. Unwept, and melter, &c.] Thus in our author's Epitaphium Damonis, v. 28.
Without the meed of some melodious tear.
Begin then, sisters of the sacred well,
That from beneath the seat of Jove doth spring, Begin, and somewhat loudly sweep the string. Hence with denial vain, and coy excuse,
So may some gentle Muse
With lucky words favour my destin'd urn,
And as he passes turn,
14. Without the meed] Without the reward. Spenser, Faery Queen, b. ii. cant. iii. st. 10.
—but honour, virtue's meed,
Doth bear the fairest flow'r in honourable seed.
14. melodious tear.] For song, or plaintive elegiac strain, the cause of tears. Euripides in like manner, Suppl. v. 1128. “II* bazova. Qigot, £ixa—oxoxoray.” “Where do you bear the tears of “the dead, i. e. the remains or “ ashes of the dead, which occa“sion our tears?” Or perhaps the passage is corrupt. See note on the place, edit. Markland. The same use of tears, however, occurs, ibid. v. 454. “Aaxeva. 3 “troikačovci.” Hurd. The passage is undoubtedly corrupt; II* is superfluous, and mars the context. The late Oxford editor seems to have given the genuine reading, “Nar 32xeva “ pious pixa,” [v. 1133.] T. Warton. 15. Begin then, sisters of the sacred nell, That from beneath the seat of Jove doth spring, He means Hippocrené, a fountain consecrated to the Muses on mount Helicon, on the side of which was an altar of Heliconian
And bid fair peace be to my sable shroud.
Together both, ere the high lawns appear'd
Under the opening eyelids of the morn,
present place is from Job, the most poetical of all books. Job. curses the day in which he was born. Let the stars of the twilight thereof be dark, let it look for light but have none, neither let it see the danning of the day. The Hebrew (that Milton always follows) hath neither let it see the eyelids of the morning, iii. 9. Richardson. . The opening eyelids was altered in the Manuscript from the glimmering eyelids. 26. Perhaps from Thomas Middleton's Game at Chesse, an old. forgotten play, published about the end of the reign of James the First, 1625.
What time the gray-fly winds her sultry horn, Batt’ning our flocks with the fresh dews of night,
Oft till the star that rose, at evening, bright,
which begins its flight in the evening. T. Warton. 27. We drove afield,) That is, “we drove our flocks afield.” I mention this, that Gray's echo of the passage in the Churchyard Elegy, yet with anether meaning, may not mislead many careless readers.
How joyous did they drive the team afield.
See the note, P. R. ii. 365. on Milton's delight in painting the beauties of the morning. In the Apology for Smectymnuus he declares, “Those morning haunts “are where they ja be, at “home: not sleeping or con“cocting the surfeits of an irre“gular feast, but up and stirring, “ in winter often before the “sound of any bell awakens “men to labour or devotion; in “ summer, as oft as the bird that “first rouses, or not much tar“dier, to read good authors, “&c.” Prose Works, i. 109. In L'Allegro, one of the first delights of his cheerful man, is to hear the “lark begin her flight.” His lovely landscape of Eden always wears its most attractive charms at sun-rising. In the present instance, he more particularly alludes to the stated early hours of a collegiate life, which he shared, on the self-same hill, with his friend Lycidas at Cambridge. T. Warton. 28. What time the gray-fly winds her sultry horn, J By the gray-fly in this place is meant no doubt a brownish kind of beetle powdered with a little white,
commonly known by the name of the cock-chaffer or dor-fly. These in the hot summer months lie quiet all the day feeding upon the leaves of the oaks and willows, but about sunset fly about with just such a sort of noise as answers the poet's description. The author could not possibly have chosen a circumstance more #. and natural for a shepherd to describe a summer's evening by, nor have expressed it in a more poetical manner. Thyer. Shakespeare has an image of the same kind in his Macbeth, but he has expressed it with greater horror suitable to the occasion, act iii. s. 3.
—ere to black Hecate’s summons
The shard-born beetle with his drowsy hums
Hath rung night's yawning peal, &c.
29. Batt'ning our flocks with the fresh dews of night,) To batten is both neutral and active, to gron, or to make fat. The neutral is most common. Shakespeare, Haml. act iii. s. 4.
Could you on this fair mountain
leave to feed, And batten on this moor *
And Drayton, Ecl. ix. vol. iv. ut supr. p. 1431.
Their battening flocks on grassie leas to hold.
Milton had this line in his eye. Batfull, that is plentiful, is a frequent epithet in Drayton, especially in his Polyolbion. T. Warton. 30. Qst till the star &c.] These two lines were thus in the Manu