Page images



In this Monody the author bewails a learned friend,' unfortunately drowned in his passage from Chester on the Irish seas, 1637; and by occasion foretells the ruin of our corrupted clergy, then in their height.

YET once more, O ye laurels, and once more
Ye myrtles brown, with ivy never sere,
I come to pluck your berries harsh and crude,
And with forced fingers rude,

Shatter your leaves before the mellowing year.
Bitter constraint, and sad occasion dear,
Compels me to disturb your season due:
For Lycidas is dead, dead ere his prime,
Young Lycidas, and hath not left his peer :
Who would not sing for Lycidas? He knew
Himself to sing, and build the lofty rhyme.
He must not float upon his watery bier
Unwept, and welter to the parching wind,
Without the meed of some melodious tear.
Begin then, Sisters of the sacred well,

That from beneath the seat of Jove doth spring,
Begin, and somewhat loudly sweep the string.
Hence with denial vain, and coy excuse,

So may some gentle Muse

With lucky words favour my destined urn,
And as he passes turn,

And bid fair peace be to my sable shroud.

For we were nursed upon the self-same hill2

Fed the same flock by fountain, shade, and rill.
Together both, ere the high lawns appear'd
Under the opening eyelids of the morn,3

1 Edward King, the friend of Milton, whose early death is bewailed in this poem, was the son of Sir John King, Secretary for Ireland under Elizabeth, James I., and Charles I. On his voyage to Ireland, to visit his family, his ship struck on a rock on the English coast, and he perished in the sea. He was

distinguished for his piety and talents, and was a fellow of Christ Church, Cambridge.

2 King was at Cambridge with Milton.

3 See marginal reading of "Neither let it see the dawning of the day," Job iii. 9.

We drove a field, and both together heard
What time the gray-fly winds her sultry horn,'
Batt'ning our flocks with the fresh dews of night,
Oft till the star that rose, at evening, bright,

Toward heav'n's descent had sloped his west'ring wheel.
Meanwhile the rural ditties were not mute,

Temper'd to the oaten flute,

Rough Satyrs danced, and Fauns with cloven heel
From the glad sound would not be absent long,
And old Damotas2 loved to hear our song.

But, O the heavy change, now thou art gone,
Now thou art gone, and never must return!·
Thee, Shepherd, thee the woods, and desert caves
With wild thyme and the gadding vine o'ergrown,
And all their echoes mourn.

The willows, and the hazel copses green,
Shall now no more be seen,

Fanning their joyous leaves to thy soft lays.
As killing as the canker to the rose,

Or taint-worm to the weanling herds that graze,

Or frost to flow'rs, that their gay wardrobe wear,
When first the white-thorn blows;

Such, Lycidas, thy loss to shepherd's 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,

Where your old Bards, the famous Druids, lie,3
Nor on the shaggy top of Mona high,


Nor yet where Deva spreads her wisard stream:5
Ay me! I fondly dream!


ye been there, for what could that have done?
What could the Muse herself that Orpheus bore,"
The Muse herself for her enchanting son,
Whom universal nature did lament,

1 The trumpet-fly. Its hum is loudest at noon.

2 Probably their tutor, Dr. Chappel. 3 The Druids' sepulchres were at *Kerig-y-Druidion, in the mountains of Denbighshire.

4 The Isle of Anglesea.

5 The Dee, said by Spenser to be the haunt of magicians. These places were all near the Irish Sea, where Lycidas embarked for Ireland.

6 Calliope was the mother of Orpheus.

When by the rout that made the hideous roar, . **
His gory visage down the stream was sent,
Down the swift Hebrus to the Lesbian shore?

Alas! what boots it with incessant care
To tend the homely slighted shepherd's tradema
And strictly meditate the thankless Muse?
Were it not better done as others use,
To sport with Amaryllis in the shade,
Or with the tangles of Neæra's hair?

[ocr errors]

Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise
(That last infirmity of noble mind)
To scorn delights, and live laborious days;
But the fair guerdon when we hope to find,
And think to burst out into sudden blaze,
Comes the blind Fury with the abhorrèd shears. ›
And slits the thin-spun life. "But not the praise,"
Phoebus replied, and touch'd my trembling ears;
"Fame is no plant that grows on mortal soil,
Nor in the glist'ring foil

Set off to th' 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 heav'n expect thy meed."
O fountain Arethuse, 2 and thou honour'd flood,


Smooth-sliding Mineius, crown'd with vocal reeds,

That strain I heard was of a higher mood:

But now my oat proceeds,

And listens to the herald of the sea

That came in Neptune's plea;

He ask'd the waves, and ask'd the felon winds,

What hard mishap hath doom'd this gentle swain ?

And question'd every gust of rugged wings

That blows from off each beakèd promontory:

They knew not of his story,

And sage Hippotades their answer brings,

1 The Bacchanalians.

2 In Sicily.

3 Near Mantua.

4 Eolus (the East Wind) was the son of Hippotades.

That not a blast was from his dungeon stray'd,
The air was calm, and on the level brine
Sleek Panope with all her sisters play'd.
It was that fatal and perfidious bark,

Built in th' eclipse, and rigg'd with curses dark,
That sunk so low that sacred head of thine.

Next Camus,1 reverend sire, went footing slow,
His mantle hairy, and his bonnet sedge,
Inwrought with figures dim, and on the edge
Like to that sanguine flow'r inscribed with woe.2
Ah! Who hath reft (quoth he) my dearest pledge?
Last came, and last did go,

The pilot of the Galilean lake.

Two massy keys he bore of metals twain,3

(The golden opes, the iron shuts amain)

He shook his mitred locks, and stern bespake,

How well could I have spared for thee, young swain,*
Enow of such as for their bellies' sake

Creep, and intrude, and climb into the fold!

Of other care they little reckoning make,
Than how to scramble at the shearer's feast,

And shove away the worthy bidden guest;

Blind mouths! that scarce themselves know how to hold
A sheep-hook, or have learn'd aught else the least
That to the faithful herdman's art belongs!

What recks it them? What need they? They are sped;

And when they list, their lean and flashy songs
Grate on their scrannel5 pipes of wretched straw;
The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed,
But swoln with wind, and the rank mist they draw,
Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread;
Besides what the grim wolf with privy paw
Daily devours apace, and nothing said;
But that two-handed engine at the door
Stands ready to smite once, and smite no more.

1 The Cam.

2 The Hyacinth; supposed to bear the letters Ai-Ai, put on it by Apollo in memory of his grief for Hyacinthus. See note at p. 2.

3 "The pilot of the Galilean lake" is St. Peter.

4 King intended to take orders in the Church of England.

5 "Thin, lean, meagre."-T. WARTÓN.

Return, Alpheus, the dread voice is past,
That shrunk thy streams; return, Sicilian Muse,
And call the vales, and bid them hither cast
Their bells, and flow'rets of a thousand hues.
Ye valleys low, where the mild whispers use
Of shades, and wanton winds, and gushing brooks,
On whose fresh lap the swart-star sparely looks:
Throw hither all your quaint enamell'd eyes,
That on the green turf suck the honied showers,
And purple all the ground with vernal flowers.
Bring the rathe primrose that forsaken dies,
The tufted crow-toe, and pale jessamine,
The white pink, and the pansy freak'd with jet,
The glowing violet,

The musk-rose, and the well-attired woodbine,
With cowslips wan that hang the pensive head,
And every flower that sad embroidery wears:
Bid amaranthus all his beauty shed,
And daffodillies fill their cups with tears,
To strow the laureate hearse where Lycid lies.
For so to interpose a little ease,

Let our frail thoughts dally with false surmise.
Ay me! Whilst thee the shores, and sounding seas
Wash far away, where'er thy bones are hurl'd,
Whether beyond the stormy Hebrides,

Where thou perhaps under the whelming tide,
Visit'st the bottom of the monstrous world;
Or whether thou to our moist vows denied,
Sleep'st by the fable of Bellerus old,1
Where the great vision of the guarded mount2
Looks toward Namancos3 and Bayona's hold:
Look homeward Angel now, and melt with ruth.
And, O ye dolphins, waft the hapless youth.

Weep no more, woful Shepherds, weep no more,
For Lycidas your sorrow is not dead,

1 Bellerus, a Cornish giant, from Bellerium.

2 Mount St. Michael, near the Land's End, Cornwall.

3 In an Atlas of 1623, and in a map of Gallicia, near Cape Finisterre, is marked a place called Namancos. In this map, also, is marked the Castle of Bayona.

« PreviousContinue »