by John Milton
Lycidas Man and the Natural World 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)
These lines can be read in at least two ways. The act of plucking berries before they're ripe is a metaphor for what the poem is about, the death of a young man before his time. But the poet might be also thinking of his own poetry as premature; it's too soon for him to be writing a poem about his dead friend. In either case, this prematurity is reflected in the natural world and his interaction with it.
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 (39-44)
The speaker describes how Lycidas' death has affected the natural world, which mourns his loss. Lycidas is described as a poet with incredible gifts; in fact, he resembles Orpheus (mentioned in line 58), a poet who was able to charm nature in the same way as Lycidas. The effect of his death on nature makes him a member of a distinguished poetic and mythological tradition. Lucky him?
Where were ye nymphs when the remorseless deep
Closed o'er the head of your loved Lycidas? (50-51)
The nymphs weren't paying attention when Lycidas drowned, or rather when the "deep" took him down. Nymphs are often associated with particular natural features (oceans, rivers, forests), and the speaker here suggests that the natural world, to a certain extent, failed one of its beloved charges. But our fickle friend will change his tune in a few lines (57), but at this point he still can't understand why Lycidas wasn't saved.