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details none of which is important enough to justify any decided statement about Milton's indebtedness.
In the Inner Temple Masque by William Browne (1614), the chief character is Circe, whose attempts! to enchant Ulysses bear some likeness to the wiles of Comus. She is surrounded by nymphs and sirens (cf. Comus, vv. 252-257) and has a following of men in beasts' shapes who dance an antimasque (cf. Comus, v. 144). It is probable that Milton derived suggestions from this production.
Other sources of detail in Comus, such as the Circe episode from the Odyssey, are pointed out in the notes.
The dialogue of Comus is written in the blank verse of ten syllables with five accents, which was the usual metre of the English drama. One passage (vv. 495-512) is rhymed in couplets. There are besides two long lyrical passages (vv. 93-144 and 902-1023) in the same octosyllabic metre as the greater part of L'Allegro and Il Penseroso. The songs are made up of a variety of lines, variously rhymed.
V. LYCIDAS Lycidas was written in 1637, and published in the following year as the last of a collection of poems by various hands, lamenting the death of Edward King, a Fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge. In August, 1637, King had set out to
visit relatives in Ireland; but the vessel in which he was crossing the Irish Sea foundered and was lost. Milton and he had been at Christ's at the same time, and though the intimacy between them was not of such warmth as that existing between Milton and Charles Diodati, for whom he wrote his Latin elegy, (the Epitaphium Damonis), he yet seems to have known King well, and to have had a sincere admiration for both his character and his ability.
The poem is a pastoral elegy following the tradition begun by Theocritus. In works of this type, the scene is laid in a fanciful Sicily or Arcadia, whose inhabitants are figured as shepherds, spending their days watching their sheep and playing on their pipes of straw. The example of the Sicilian School had been followed by Vergil and other classical writers, and with the Renaissance there had come a great revival of the pastoral throughout western Europe. The idea had been used not only in elegy but also in prose romance and in the drama; and Milton had English examples in such works as Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia and The Faithful Shepherdess of John Fletcher. He had already employed the pastoral fiction in Arcades and in parts of Comus, and throughout the present poem the setting and imagery are of this nature.
The poem opens with a statement of the occasion (vv. 1-14), and this is followed by the conventional invocation of the Muses (vv. 15-22).
The pastoral proper begins with v. 23, where he images the life of King and himself while students at Cambridge, following the same studies and alike experimenting in poetry, as that of two young shepherds, born on the same hillside, herding their flocks together, and piping on the oaten flute. This figure is kept up throughout the poem, exdept in the digressions.
The first of these (vv. 64-84) deals with Poetry and Fame, and is very significant of the spirit in which Milton devoted himself to a poetical career. In it he rises from the lower view of Fame as mere worldly reputation to a conception of it as the · stamp of divine approval.
The lament is then resumed (v. 85) in an attempt to fix the blame for the disaster, and at v. 108 St. Peter is introduced as the guardian of the church he founded, lamenting the death of so s promising a youth at a time when the ministry was crowded with hirelings. In this digression on the state of the English Church, the service of which King had intended to enter, we have a splendid burst of indignation against those abuses which from Milton's point of view were bringing the Church into deeper and deeper degradation.'
See Section I of this Introduction.
His hope that a short and effective remedy was at hand is expressed in vv. 130, 1.
The elegy proper is then taken up again (vv. 165-185), and he rises from the tone of regret that has prevailed hitherto to a triumphant assertion of his friend's immortality. In these lines he leaves the classical and pagan allusions. which, following the tradition of the pastoral, he had freely introduced in the earlier pages, and adopts the language of the New Testament. .
In the last eight lines we have a kind of epilogue in which Milton separates himself from the speaker in the foregoing lament, tells of the close of the shepherd's lay, and refers symbolically to his own approaching change of occupation.
The metre of Lycidas consists mainly of tensyllabled lines, with the accents on the even syllables. It is rhymed irregularly, but with the most . subtly musical effect; and it is varied by the occasional introduction of a blank verse line and of a shorter line of three accents.' So successfully has Milton used this freedom that the poem ranks as one of the most varied and best sustained pieces of rhythm in the language.
1 For examples of blank verse lines, see vy. 1, 22, 39, 51, 82, 91, 161; of lines of three accents, see vv. 4, 19, 21, 33, 41, 43, 48, 56, 79, 88, 90, 95, 108, 145.
. VI. MILTON'S PURITANISM In reading the poems of Milton contained in the present volume, it is easy to be at a loss to account for what may appear their inconsistency with Puritanism, as Puritanism is ordinarily conceived. L’Allegro and Il Penseroso both show a genuine delight in art, and a capacity for sheer pleasure which Puritanism is supposed to have shunned. Comus Delongs to a type of dramatic literature which, more than any other, is associated with the pleasure-loving Cavalier society, and which is particularly identified with that Court the downfall of which the triumph of Puritanism implied. And Lycidas, in spite of the outburst on the corruption in the Church, shows an anxious care for that Church itself—the Church which Puritanism attempted to transform, if not to destroy. How is the author of such poems to be accounted a Puritan?
The explanation lies in a clearer understanding, first, of the history of Puritanism itself; and, second, of the growth of Milton's opinions.
In the first section of this Introduction, there has been indicated a gradual development of Puritan sentiment with regard to ritual and doctrine. This was brought about largely by the innovations of the High Church party; for, as that party attempted more and more effectually to introduce its views and practices into the Established