by John Milton
Lycidas Man and the Natural World Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
He asked the waves, and asked the felon winds,
What hard mishap hath doomed this gentle swain?
And questioned every gust of rugged wings
That blows from off each beaked promontory (91-94)
This passage reminds us of lines 50-51, in which the speaker talks about the nymphs not being there for Lycidas. Here, Triton tells the speaker how he asked the winds and other natural elements about Lycidas' death, just as the speaker asked the nymphs. But neither one of them receives a satisfying answer. It looks like an explanation for the tragedy cannot be sought in nature.
It was that fatal and perfidious bark
Built in the eclipse, and rigged with curses dark,
That sunk so low that sacred head of thine (100-102)
Looks like nature is off the hook. Instead, it looks like the boat was to blame, because it was cursed from the get-go. Can blaming Lycidas' death on an old curse give our speaker any real solace? From the looks of the poem, probably not. The only solace he gets is when he realizes that Lycidas has gone to a better place.
Next Camus, reverend sire, went footing slow,
His mantle hairy, and his bonnet sedge,
Inwrought with figures dim, and on the edge
Like to that sanguine flower inscribed with woe. (103-106)
Notice that the River Cam's bonnet is "inwrought with figures dim." Images of writing pepper this description, suggesting that nature is like the poem, or the poem is like nature. Here the flowers are "inscribed with woe"? Does the speaker "inscribe" the natural world and project his grief onto it, or is it sad all on its own?