John Milton: Lycidas

(3920 words)
  • Neil Forsyth (Université de Lausanne )

In his 1879 book on Milton the Oxford scholar Mark Pattison called “Lycidas” “the high-water mark of English Poesy” (Patrides xiv). Not all have agreed. It is a very odd poem. Not only does it seem to turn back on itself when the famous ending (“Tomorrow to fresh woods and pastures new”) unexpectedly introduces a new voice that calls the poet of the rest an “uncouth swain”, but it makes sudden twists and shifts among other voices all the way through.

The poem is a response to the death, in August 1637, of a Cambridge man of Milton’s acquaintance, Edward King. Slightly younger than Milton, King had already had a flourishing career: he had been appointed by royal fiat to a Cambridge fellowship at the absurdly …

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Forsyth, Neil. "Lycidas". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 18 December 2011
[, accessed 01 October 2016.]