How does the narrator of "Lycidas" describe Heaven? Are there any particularly important features?

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All Milton's poetry is steeped in classical scholarship. He is sometimes accused of writing English like a dead language and, indeed, was just as comfortable writing in Latin as in English. Throughout his career as a poet, a prose writer and a politician, classical allusions mixed freely with Christian principles in Milton's writing and his thought. Although he was a Puritan, Milton's version of Christianity was so personal and cerebral that he was effectively a party of one, in religion as he was in politics.

In "Lycidas," Milton articulates a vision of heaven that is designed specifically for writers and other artists. What is the point, he asks, of devoting oneself to literature, only to die just as fame is within one's grasp? Although the ostensible subject of "Lycidas," Edward King, was a minor poet, Milton is clearly thinking of himself here. He receives his response from no less an authority than Phoebus Apollo, god of the sun and of the arts:

Fame is no plant that grows on mortal soil,
Nor in the glistering foil
Set off to the world, nor in broad rumour lies,
But lives and spreads aloft by those pure eyes
And perfect witness of all-judging Jove;
As he pronounces lastly on each deed,
Of so much fame in Heaven expect thy meed.
The special feature of Milton's heaven is that he will be famous there, since God is just as discerning when judging poetry as when judging virtue. Milton's idea of a heaven, where the classical gods of Olympus intermingle with the cherubim and seraphim, is a place where his struggles to create superlative works of art will be appreciated and rewarded.
Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on April 13, 2020
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