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 young age of 18 (presumably because his family owned large
Citation: Forsyth, Neil. "Lycidas". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 18 December 2011 [https://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=3787, accessed 10 December 2023.]