Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Intro to Lycidas
Milton wrote this poem because of the drowning of Edward King, a fellow poet who drowned in 1637 off the coast of Wales. He serves as the inspiration for Lycidas, which is a poem about how he was cut off too early in his life. So this is a lament in the form of a pastoral, a poem that shepherds would write about. And I feel that Milton is anxious to become a poet with lasting value, so he feels compelled to write in a grandiose fashion, which Samuel Jonson, the 18th century critic, derided as vulgar and disgusting.
Milton recalls his masque, Comus, at the beginning of the poem. Comus was a play that was performed in 1634 before the court. And he uses this work a springboard to launch his argument for his dead friend, who is lamented and compared to Orpheus, a mythological poet who was cut off in his prime. So Milton alludes to Classical myth throughout his works, so if you want to find out about these ancient mythological references, I’d suggest reading the Metamorphoses by Ovid to get a handle on them. You will find that the poem reads better if you are aware of this material.