by John Milton
Lycidas Death Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
I come to pluck your berries harsh and crude,
And with forced fingers rude
Shatter your leaves before the mellowing year (3-5)
The connection between this opening and the poem's subject matter (the death of a young man) is clear, but there might be something else going on. Perhaps the speaker feels that he might be writing this type of poem (pastoral elegy) too soon, almost as if he is plucking his own berries before he should.
For Lycidas is dead, dead ere his prime,
Young Lycidas, and hath not left his peer (8-9)
This is the first description we get of Lycidas' death. His name is repeated, as is the fact that he is dead, just in case you had any doubt. In fact, it almost seems as if the speaker is trying to convince himself of Lycidas' death, as if he can't quite believe it himself. But we also might think of the repetition of the name as somehow keeping Lycidas alive – in poetry at least.
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 (19-22)
Okay, now we're getting the whole story. In these lines, the speaker suggests that he is writing this poem for Lycidas so that some poet will do the same for him in the future. That sounds a lot more self-interested than a typical man in grief. We can't help but wonder why he is so focused on his own death, so early on in the poem. Shouldn't he be more worried about Lycidas? Could it be that the only reason he is upset that Lycidas is gone is that it's a reminder of his own mortality?