Lycidas is known as a pastoral elegy, or an expression of grief that revolves around shepherds, pastures, nature. The author is writing about the loss of a dear friend, Edward King, a college classmate, as well as mourning the loss of his youth and days gone by.
Pastoral elements in literature focus on creating an ideal picture of country life, simple life, the pastoral setting is easy to associate with religious images. God exists in nature, the purity of a life lived close to the earth. Especially with regard to sheperds and sheep, easily connected to the Christian images of Jesus Christ as the sheperd and his followers his flock.
Pastoral life consists of being near the land, working close to nature, farm life, a rural existence.
"But O the heavy change, now thou art gon,
Now thou art gon, and never must return!
Thee Shepherd, thee the Woods, and desert Caves,
With wilde Thyme and the gadding Vine o'regrown, [ 40 ]
And all their echoes mourn.
The Willows, and the Hazle Copses green,
Shall now no more be seen,Fanning their joyous Leaves to thy soft layes." (Milton)
In this passage, Milton is recalling the pastoral nature of the environment that he feels he has lost along with his dear friend. Because the pastoral images tie in so well with Christian imagery, Milton includes religious elements in this poem
"So Lycidas sunk low, but mounted high,
Through the dear might of him that walk'd the waves;
Where other groves, and other streams along,
With Nectar pure his oozy Lock's he laves, [ 175 ]
And hears the unexpressive nuptiall Song,
In the blest Kingdoms meek of joy and love.
There entertain him all the Saints above,
In solemn troops, and sweet Societies
That sing, and singing in their glory move, [ 180 ]
And wipe the tears for ever from his eyes."
In the final lines of the poem, Milton invokes the Christian God, Jesus Christ who walked on the waves, Jesus Christ walked on water, telling the reader that Lycidas is in heaven with the Lamb of God, who wipes away tears forever.
"The last two verse paragraphs establish the elegy’s Christian consolation and the poet’s readiness now to embark on his poetic career. Lycidas is not dead but resurrected in Christ (lines 172-73). Shifting into third-person narrative, the poem concludes with the “uncouth swain,” the shepherd-poet himself, rising and, in a gesture of hope, preparing to leave the pastures he shared with Lycidas for “fresh woods, and pastures new” (line 193)."