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Begin then, sisters, of the sacred well,1
That from beneath the seat of Jove doth spring;
With lucky words favour my destined urn,
And bid fair peace be to my sable shroud:
Toward Heaven's descent had sloped his westering3 wheel Meanwhile the rural ditties were not mute,
Tempered to the oaten flute;
Rough satyrs danced, and fauns with cloven heel
But oh, the heavy change, now thou art gone,
The willows, and the hazel copses green,
and personal allegory, and requires the same sacrifice of reasoning criticism, as the Lycidas itself. In the age of Milton, the poetical world had been accustomed by the Italian and Spanish writers to a more abundant use of allegory than has been pleasing to their posterity; but Lycidas is not so much in the nature of an allegory as of a masque; the characters pass before our eyes in imagination, as on the stage; they are chiefly mythological, but not creations of the poet. Our sympathy with the fate of Lycidas may not be much stronger than for the desertion of Gallus by his mistress; but many poems will yield an exquisite pleasure to the imagination that produce no emotion in the heart; or none at least, except through associations independent of the subject."-Hallam.
2 So the muse is made masculine in Samson Agonistes, ver. 973. 3 Drawing towards the west.
4 He probably means Dr. William Chappel, who had been tutor to them both, and afterwards became Bishop of Cork and Ross.
Shall now no more be seen,
Fanning their joyous leaves to thy soft lays.
Or taint-worm to the weanling herds that graze,
Such, Lycidas, thy loss to shepherds' ear.
Where were ye, nymphs, when the remorseless deep Closed o'er the head of your loved Lycidas?
For neither were ye playing on the steep,
Nor yet where Deva spreads her wizard stream:
Had ye been there, for what could that have done?
When by the rout that made the hideous roar,
Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise
To scorn delights, and live laborious days;
Set off to the world, nor in broad rumour lies,
As he pronounces lastly on each deed,
Of so much fame in Heaven expect thy meed.”
1 The Isle of Anglesea.
2 The River Dee. The word Deva is supposed to mean divine.
O fountain Arethuse,' and thou honoured flood,
And listens to the herald of the sea
That came in Neptune's plea;
He asked the waves, and asked the felon winds,
And sage Hippotades2 their answer brings,
Built in the eclipse, and rigged with curses dark,
Next Camus,3 reverend sire, went footing slow, His mantle hairy, and his bonnet sedge, Inwrought with figures dim, and on the edge, Like to that sanguine flower inscribed with woe.* "Ah! who hath reft," quoth he, "my dearest pledge?" Last came, and last did go,
The pilot of the Galilean lake,5
1 Now Phoebus, whose strain was of a higher mood, has done speaking, he invokes the fountain Arethuse of Sicily, the country of Theocritus, and Mincius, the river of Mantua, Virgil's country, in compliment to those poets.
2 Æolus, the son of Hippotas.
3 The Cam, the river of Cambridge.
4 Meaning the hyacinth, the leaves of which were supposed to be marked with the mournful letters A, At. Cf. Ovid, Met. x. 210 sqq.
5" The introduction of St. Peter after the fabulous deities of the sea, has appeared an incongruity deserving of censure to some admirers of this poem. It would be very reluctantly that we could abandon to this criticism the most splendid passage it presents. But the censure rests, as I think, on too narrow a principle. In narrative or dramatic poetry, where something like illusion or momentary belief is to be produced, the mind requires an objective possibility, a capacity of real existence, not only in all the separate portions of the imagined story, but in their coherency and relation to a common whole. Whatever is obviously incongruous, whatever shocks our previous knowledge of possibility, destroys, to a certain extent, that acquiescence in the fiction which it is the true business of the fiction to produce. But the case is not the same in such poems as Lycidas. They pretend to no credibility, they aim at no illusion, they are read
Two massy keys he bore, of metals twain
(The golden opes, the iron shuts amain),
He shook his mitred locks, and stern bespake:
Creep, and intrude, and climb into the fold!
Blind mouths! that scarce themselves know how to hold
What recks it them? What need they? They are sped;
But swollen with wind, and the rank mist they draw,
with the willing abandonment of the imagination to a waking dream, and require only that general possibility, that combination of images, which common experience does not reject as incompatible, without which the fancy of the poet would be only like that of the lunatic. And it had been so usual to blend sacred with mythological personages in allegory, that no one, probably, in Milton's age, would have heen struck by the objection."-Hallam.
1 Probably equivalent to the Latin "stridens," creaking, piercing.
The musk-rose, and the well-attired woodbine,
And daffodillies fill their cups with tears,
Let our frail thoughts dally with false surmise.
Where thou, perhaps, under the whelming tide
Weep no more, woeful shepherds, weep no more,
Sunk though he be beneath the watery floor;
And yet anon repairs his drooping head,
And tricks his beams, and with new-spangled ore
So Lycidas sunk low, but mounted high,
Through the dear might of him that walked the waves,
With nectar pure his oozy locks he laves,
1 Probably Bellerus, one of the Cornish giants, fabulously sup. posed to dwell at the Land's End.
2 A watch-tower and lighthouse formerly stood on the promontory called the Land's End, and looked, as Orosius says, towards another high tower at Brigantia in Gallicia, and consequently towards Bayona's Hold.-Newton.
4 A dolphin is said to have carried the body of Palemon to the shore of Corinth, where he was deified.