Homework Help

Is Milton's Lycidas merely a personal lament for a dead friend or a poem of greater...

user profile pic

neetajindal | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 29, 2009 at 2:44 PM via web

dislike 1 like

Is Milton's Lycidas merely a personal lament for a dead friend or a poem of greater signficance?

1 Answer | Add Yours

user profile pic

akannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 29, 2009 at 8:53 PM (Answer #1)

dislike 2 like

"Lycidas" starts off as a lament for a dead friend, but then becomes a discussion about the nature of mortality, resulting in the understanding of how "there is always a plan."  After the initial explanation of the speaker's mourning for his dead friend, the process of probing the nature of existence begins.  The speaker does this in comparing the actions of his dead friend to his own and sensing that there is little difference between the two (lines 25- 36.)  The implication here is that if it could happen to his friend, what is to prevent death from visiting the speaker?  What makes the two so different?  As the questioning continues, the speaker is visited by the voice of the immortals who comment on his musings about the nature of existence.  The issue of who lives and who dies is an issue that is determined by "all judging Jove;/As he pronounces lastly on each deed,/Of so much fame in Heav'n expect thy meed." This begins to make the poem's move from a private mourning of a friend's death to a discussion of death and dying, existence in this life and the next, and the understanding that within the small actions of an individual, lies something greater, something more powerful.  In his work, Milton traditionally exposed and analyzed themes of significance, such as the relationship between individuals and God, and it is the same element at work here.  The affirmation in the notion of design in the lives and deaths of human beings is seen in the closing lines when the speaker realizes that with God's design, there is no need to feel sad for his friend:

Weep no more, woful Shepherds weep no more
For Lycidas your sorrow is not dead,
Sunk though he be beneath the watry floar,
So sinks the day-star in the Ocean bed,
And yet anon repairs his drooping head,
And tricks his beams, and with new-spangled Ore,
Flames in the forehead of the morning sky:
So Lycidas sunk low, but mounted high,

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes