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by John Milton

Analysis: Setting

Where It All Goes Down

A Pretty, Wooded Area Near Cambridge University

Let's suppose you're a diligent student of English literature who knows that many of England's finest poets, including John Milton and William Wordsworth, attended Cambridge University. One autumn you decide to take a trip to England to visit the houses, graves, and haunts of many of your favorite British authors. During your visit to Cambridge – one of the most anticipated stops on your trip – you stumble upon a nice, lush spot near the river Cam. You can't help being reminded of that line in "Lycidas" about the "bells and flow'rets of a thousand hues" (135). You've done extensive research on the flowers in that poem and you quickly recognize violets, woodbines, cowslips, and primroses. You're stunned by the serene beauty and tranquility of this quiet retreat. If only they had a place like this back home.

As you walk around and explore the area, you notice that you're near a clearing. You make your way toward it, and just when you thought the landscape couldn't get any more pastoral, you stumble into an actual pasture for sheep and other animals. Way out in the distance, you can see a local shepherd, crook in hand, and you can't help thinking of that "uncouth swain" in "Lycidas" – you know, the guy who actually recited the poem? At any rate, you have to take some pictures of this spot; they might come in handy if and when you teach "Lycidas."

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