by John Milton
Lines 165-181 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
Weep no more, woeful shepherds, weep no more
For Lycidas your sorrow is not dead,
Sunk though he be beneath the wat'ry floor.
- Hmm. Shmoop senses a change afoot. Do you? Things start to turn around for the speaker here. He tells his fellow shepherds to stop weeping, because Lycidas isn't really dead, even though he has sunk into the ocean. Or at least, that's what we think he means…
- But the line "for Lycidas your sorrow is not dead" can be read two ways. In one interpretation, "sorrow" modifies Lycidas, as in "Lycidas, the man for whom you feel sorrow, is not dead."
- Alternatively, the speaker could be addressing Lycidas himself, saying, "Hey Lycidas, your sorrow isn't over because you're not really dead; therefore you're still going to suffer."
- Shmoop is swayed by the first reading, but we could be convinced by a good argument for the second. What's your take?
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:
- How can Lycidas not be dead, though, if he has sunk beneath the ocean?
- The speaker gives us a simile to answer that very question: the sun ("the day-star") appears to sink into the ocean in the west, but it rises the next day, appearing in the morning sky. Maybe Lycidas will rise again, too, in just the same way.
- "Anon" means right away, or very soon. "Repairs" in line 169 means to reappear, or to go again. So each time the sun sinks in the west, it reappears soon enough in the east, where it rises.
- And when the sun does rise again, he "tricks," or adorns his beams with "new-spangled ore" or newly sparkling gold.
- Our speaker personifies the sky, here, giving it a human forehead.
So Lycidas sunk low, but mounted high,
Through the dear might of Him that walked the waves,
Where, other groves and other streams along,
With nectar pure his oozy locks he laves,
And hears the unexpressive nuptial song,
In the blest kingdoms meek of joy and love.
- Here's where we get the tail end of the simile that started in the previous lines.
- Lycidas, like the sun, has sunk but also risen again, through the power of Jesus Christ ("might of Him that walked the waves"). Lycidas has risen to a place resembling heaven or paradise ("blest kingdoms meek of joy and love").
- He now spends his time among different "groves" and "streams," and he washes ("laves") his slimy ("oozy," as a result of the ocean) hair ("locks") with nectar in paradise. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal.
- While there, he also hears an "unexpressive nuptial song." The song is "unexpressive" because angels can communicate without resorting to speech.
- The idea here is that, sure, Lycidas has died. But he has also risen to heaven (like the sun rises in the sky), which should be a source of hope and happiness. That's why those "woeful shepherds" from line 165 should "weep no more."
There entertain him all the saints above,
In solemn troops, and sweet societies,
That sing, and singing in their glory move,
And wipe the tears for ever from his eyes.
- Lycidas is definitely in heaven because all the "saints" are there entertaining him in large, friendly groups that sing, move him, and wipe the tears from his eyes. Not too shabby for our poor shepherd.
- That tricky "for ever" in line 181 is ambiguous. It could mean that the saints wipe the tears from his eyes so that he never cries ever again. Or, it could mean that they continually wipe the tears from his eyes, as if he is perpetually sad because he is no longer down on earth with his shepherd buddies.
- Shmoop will go with the first interpretation, but if you like the second, well, you go right on ahead.