by John Milton
Lycidas Man and the Natural World Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
What could the muse herself that Orpheus bore,
The muse herself for her enchanting son
Whom universal nature did lament (58-60)
The speaker compares Lycidas to Orpheus, a mythological poet who was able to enchant the natural world in the same way Lycidas did. Orpheus, too, suffered a violent death, despite the fact that he was totally beloved. Lycidas' story reminds the speaker of Orpheus' story, and the two together remind him of his own potential death. (After all, he is a poet too.)
Were it not better done as others use,
To sport with Amaryllis in the shade,
Or with the tangles of Neaera's hair? (67-69)
In these lines, nature seems like the total opposite of grief (or at least the opposite of writing poetry about grief). The speaker wonders if he'd be better off hanging out in the shade than moping about the death of his friend. It's possible that he is also arguing for a different kind of pastoral poetry, one less obsessed with sadness and grief and more concerned with celebrating and enjoying nature. Not a bad idea at all, right?
O fountain Arethuse, and thou honoured flood,
Smooth-sliding Mincius, crowned with vocal reeds. (85-86)
Our nature-loving speaker is having a chat with some rivers in these lines. But this apostrophe isn't just for show. These two rivers are richly symbolic, reminding the clued-in reader of Greek and Roman pastoral, respectively. Try comparing these rivers to some of the other rivers in the poem – such as the Cam. Do you think the poet might be trying to associate his own native river (the Cam) with the pastoral tradition? That seems plausible, when you consider the fact that Milton worked very hard to make people think of him as a grade-A Poet.