“Lycidas” by John Milton- Summary & Analysis

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About Poem: Lycidas

Poem TitleLycidas
AuthorJohn Milton
GenrePastoral elegy
StructureThe poem is divided into 193 lines and is written in iambic pentameter
SettingThe poem begins in a pastoral setting, but later moves to the sea and to the underworld
ImageryFlowers, trees, animals, the sea, and the sky
SymbolismShepherd’s crook, the laurel wreath, and the golden harp
Date of Writing1637
Literary GenrePastoral elegy
SubjectMourning and lamentation for the death of Edward King

Themes: Lycidas

The themes of “Lycidas” by John Milton are:

  1. Mortality ➤ The poem explores the idea that life is fragile, and death is inevitable.
  2. Nature vs. Reality ➤ It contrasts the idealized pastoral world with the harsh realities of life, like the shipwreck.
  3. Religion and Faith ➤ The poem contains Christian themes, including the concept of divine providence and the idea that death is not the end.
  4. The Power of Poetry ➤ It highlights the role of poetry in preserving memory and offering solace in times of grief.
  5. Critique of Church Leadership ➤ The poem subtly criticizes the state of the church and its leaders in Milton’s time.

Characters: Lycidas

The main characters of “Lycidas” by John Milton are:

  1. Lycidas ➤ The poem’s title character, who represents Milton’s friend Edward King. Lycidas drowned at sea, and the poem mourns his untimely death.
  2. St. Peter ➤ A Christian figure mentioned in the poem. His role is to judge the souls of the deceased, including Lycidas.
  3. The Shepherd ➤ A persona or character who speaks in the poem, expressing grief over the loss of Lycidas and reflecting on the fragility of life.
  4. Phoebus ➤ A reference to the Greek god Apollo, symbolizing poetic inspiration and light. The shepherd implores Phoebus to help him sing a fitting elegy for Lycidas.
  5. Mæonides: A reference to the Greek poet Homer, whose blindness is mentioned to contrast with his poetic genius.

Lycidas Summary & Analysis

Lycidas is a poem written by John Milton, and it’s about the death of a young friend named Edward King. The poem is written in the form of a pastoral elegy, which is a type of poem that mourns the loss of a friend or loved one. It consists of several stanzas, and I’ll summarize it stanza by stanza in simple language:

Stanza 1

The poem begins with the speaker, who is the poet, lamenting the death of his friend Lycidas. He says that Lycidas is dead and that he will never return. The speaker talks about how sad and unfair it is that Lycidas died so young.

Stanza 2

In this stanza, the speaker mentions that Lycidas was a good and pure person. He talks about how Lycidas was a shepherd, which is a symbol of simplicity and innocence. The speaker also mentions that Lycidas drowned in the sea, which is a tragic way to die.

Stanza 3

The speaker then addresses the shepherds, who are other people in their pastoral community. He tells them to mourn for Lycidas and to scatter flowers and garlands on his grave. He asks them to remember the good things about Lycidas and not focus on his tragic death.

Stanza 4

The speaker talks about how the sea gods, especially the god Triton, should have protected Lycidas from drowning. He wonders why the sea gods didn’t save him, and he asks if they were sleeping or not paying attention.

Stanza 5

The speaker mentions that Lycidas was a talented poet and that he had the potential to achieve great things. He says that Lycidas was like a young plant that was just starting to grow, but his life was cut short.

Stanza 6

The speaker shifts his focus to the famous poet Apollo and the god of the Muses. He asks them to help him sing a song in memory of Lycidas. He wants to create a beautiful poem to honor his friend’s memory.

Stanza 7

The speaker reflects on how Lycidas has now become a part of the natural world. He talks about how Lycidas’ spirit is now in the sea, the flowers, and the trees. He believes that Lycidas is at peace in the afterlife.

Stanza 8

The speaker ends the poem by addressing Lycidas directly. He tells Lycidas that he is now in a better place, and he hopes that Lycidas is enjoying eternal happiness in heaven. He also says that he will never forget his friend.

FAQs: Lycidas

What is the meaning of Lycidas?

Lycidas is a poem about the death of a young friend and the speaker’s search for meaning in the face of loss.

What is the message of the poem Lycidas?

The message of Lycidas is that death is a part of life, but that we can find hope and comfort in the afterlife and in the power of poetry.

Who is Orpheus in Lycidas?

Orpheus is a legendary Greek poet and musician who was said to have the power to charm all of nature with his music.

Why is Edward King called Lycidas?

Edward King is called Lycidas in Milton’s poem because it was a common practice in pastoral poetry to use shepherds’ names to represent real people.

Why did Milton write Lycidas what was it and who was it dedicated to?

Milton wrote Lycidas, a pastoral elegy, to mourn the death of his friend Edward King.

Where did Lycidas drown?

Lycidas drowned in the sea.

What is Milton’s personification in Lycidas?

Milton personifies the river Camus as an old man mourning the death of Lycidas.

What does fresh woods and pastures new mean?

“Fresh woods and pastures new” means a new beginning, a new chapter in life. It is a metaphor for hope and renewal in the face of death and loss.

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