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That from beneath the seat of Jove doth spring.
So may some gentle Muse 20 With lucky words favour
Together both, ere the high lawns appear'd
Batt'ning our flocks with the fresh dews of night, 30 Oft till the Star that rose, at ev’ning, bright Toward Heav'n's descent had slop'd his westering
wheel. Meanwhile the rural ditties were not mute, Temper'd to th' oaten flute,
Rough Satyrs danc'd, and Fauns with clov'n heel 35 From the glad sound would not be absent long,
And old Damætas lov'd to hear our song. 16. Milton drew this from the Greek poet Hesiod. 19. Muse, poet.
20. The accent in reading should be on my, since the poet is wishing for a future reward of verse for himself, like that he is about to bestow.
23. It should be remembered that the singer of this monody feigns himself and Lycidas, after the manner of ancient verse, to be shepherds. The actual fact was that they had a common college.
28. Gray-fly, otherwise the trumpet-fly.
33. The fiction of shepherd life is continued. In fancy the rude pipe made of straw is played on, the rural ditties being tempered or set to it.
36. Damætas. Theocritus and Virgil used this name for the
But O the heavy change, now thou art gone,
Or taint-worm to the weanling herds that graze,
been there— for what could that have done? What could the Muse herself, that Orpheus bore,
herdsmen in their pastorals. It is suggested that Milton was making playful reference to the tutor of King and himself, W. Chappell, of Christ's College.
38. Must. If Milton had said wilt, he would have implied that Lycidas could but would not; must declares that he is under constraint.
41. The echoes are thus made individual voices of nature.
53. The fact that King was shipwrecked when making passage from England to Ireland explains why Milton thus chooses Welsh headlands and the river Dee (Deva) with their early po etic associations.
56. Fondly. See Il Penseroso, line 6.
The Muse herself, for her enchanting son, 80 Whom universal nature did lament,
When by the rout that made the hideous roar,
Alas! what boots it with uncessant care
And strictly meditate the thankless Muse?
Or with the tangles of Neæra's hair?
(That last infirmity of noble mind)
63. Milton derives from Virgil chiefly the story of Orpheus. He was a famous mythical poet, son of the muse Calliope. So enchanting was his song that he could move trees and rocks and wild beasts. He descended into the lower world after bis wife Eurydice, who had died, and so prevailed upon Persephone with his song that she let Eurydice return with him ; but he forfeited her before they reached the upper air through his disobedience in looking back upon the passage they had threaded. He was torn in pieces by the Thracian Mænads because of the hatred he inspired by his loss of Eurydice. They cast his head and lyre into the Hebrus, which bore these remains to Lesbos, where they were buried.
66. Milton's own high devotion to his art is here intimated. There is a Virgilian phrase in the line. Virgil in Eclogue I. line 2, wrote,
"Sylvestrem tenui Musam meditaris avena,” which Sydney Smith jocosely translated, “We cultivate literature on a little oatmeal.”
67. Use, are wont. We use the past form only in this sig. nificance.
69. Amaryllis, Necera. These are but names only. The former is a Virgilian remembrance.
And think to burst out into sudden blaze, 78 Comes the blind Fury with th' abhorred shears,
And slits the thin-spun life. But not the praise, Phæbus replied, and touch'd my trembling ears; Fame is no plant that grows on mortal soil, Nor in the glistering foil 80 Set off to th' world, nor in broad rumor lies; 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 fame in Heav'n expect thy meed. 85 O fountain Arethuse, and thou honor'd flood, Smooth-sliding Mincius, crown’d with vocal reeds, That strain I heard was of a higher mood; But now my oat proceeds,
And listens to the Herald of the Sea 90 That came in Neptune's plea ;
He ask'd the waves, and ask'd the felon winds,
“For what is glory but the blaze of fame?”
Paradise Regained, iii. 47.
75. Fury. In ancient mythology, as Milton knew well, it was the office of one of the three Fates to snip the thread of life. The use of fury may have been accidental, or, wanting a dissyllable, the poet may have used his authority in handling classic traditions - more than once he invents his classic myths - to put the shears into the hands of a blind fury as a more dramatic personage for his
purpose. 79. Foil. Fame, the poet says, is of immortal growth ; nor does it lie either in some shining contrast or in broad rumor.
81. By, under the light of.
86. Mincius. A remembrance of Virgil, Georgics, iii. 13-15 The poet there offers to build a votive offering by the Mincio. swain,
95 They knew not of his story,
And sage Hippotades their answer brings,
Sleek Panope with all her sisters play'd. 100 It was that fatal and perfidious bark,
Built in th' eclipse, and rigg'd with curses dark,
Next Camus, reverend sire, went footing slow, His mantle hairy, and his bonnet sedge, 105 Inwrought with figures dim, and on the edge
Like to that sanguine flower inscrib’d with woe. Ah! Who has reft (quoth he) my dearest pledge ? Last came, and last did go,
The Pilot of the Galilean lake; 110 Two massy keys he bore of metals twain,
(The golden opes, the iron shuts amain) He shook his mitred locks, and stern bespake; “ How well could I have spar'd for thee, young
96. Hippotades, Æolus, son of Hippotas.
97. Was strayed. This form still lingers with us, but it sounds to most a little stiff. It holds, however, in academic use, as when we say a man was graduated from college.
103. Camus. It will be remembered that King was from the college on the Cam.
Went, wended his way.
104. Bonnet. The Scotch still use this word for male as well as female head covering.
106. Like, i. e. a figure like. Sanguine flower, the hyacinth.
111. To know the uses of the keys one needs but to recall the charge to St. Peter.
112. Mitred locks. Milton was writing in a time when Episcopacy was a question of the hour. He himself was opposed to Episcopacy as he saw it, but the true overseeing of souls was an. other matter, and thus he makes St. Peter a bishop.