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by John Milton

Lycidas Theme of Man and the Natural World

Shepherds do their shepherding in the great outdoors, so it's no surprise that nature is everywhere in "Lycidas." We've got flowers, plants, bodies of water, even a few animals. The flora and fauna mourn for Lycidas, as if they could feel sadness the same way we do. The poem emphasizes that the young shepherd Lycidas was an important part of a pastoral, English countryside that seems downright dead without him.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. All these plants and animals seem to feel the beat. They dance along to Lycidas' tunes. But, we have to ask: do you think animals (and plants) can actually enjoy music? If not, why bother depicting them as doing so?
  2. Is all that stuff about nature mourning for Lycidas cheesy, or is it moving? Do you think Milton uses nature in an effective way to convey his feelings of loss? Or does he strike a false note?
  3. Why bother writing a poem about a dead poet that takes place in nature, among plants and animals? Why make Edward King a shepherd named Lycidas in the first place? Why not just write a poem about the guy Milton really knew?
  4. Do you think the speaker is as connected to nature as Lycidas was?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The speaker blames nature several times for Lycidas' death, only to realize that nature isn't responsible for what happens to us. In other words, he learns that he can't personify nature or treat it like a human being.

Nature has to die (flowers are dead once they're picked) so that the speaker can deal with Lycidas' death, which shows us that nature is closely tied to the mourning process.

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