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Lycidas
Lycidas
by John Milton

Sound Check

Read this poem aloud. What do you hear?

Is it a song, or a poem? With all the blurring between the two that goes on in "Lycidas," you'd be forgiven for wanting to belt a few lines out in the shower. The problem is, this poem is so irregular, so full of jarring rhythms and tough names that you would be hard pressed to find your groove.

Alliteration abounds, with moments like "forced fingers" (line 4), "sisters of the sacred" (like 15), and "daily devours" (129). Within the lines, repetition of phrases and sounds adds a satisfying sense of harmony and melody. But when you add to that sense of harmony the irregular rhythms, coupled with a rhyme scheme that never quite finds its footing, you've got a rollicking, somewhat bumpy ride ahead of you.

The poem constantly surprises you with its sounds. Just when you think you've fallen into step, it will trip you up all over again. But that is one of the great joys of reading Milton. He expects a lot of you, and you have the distinct pride of rising to the occasion.

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