Essay on A Critique on Lycidas Written by John Milton

1210 Words Dec 1st, 2010 5 Pages
Lycidas is a popular, well-known poem, which was written in the early 1630s by John Milton. The poem is written in the style of pastoral elegy and is dedicated to Edward King a friend of John Milton who drowned out at sea. About 100 years after the poem had already been well known, Samuel Johnson responded forcefully by writing a critique that has also become well renowned. Samuel Johnson, who wrote the English Dictionary, questions the worth of Lycidas. According to Johnson, poetry is an art form that should be praised when its qualities are beautiful, symmetrical and full of passion. John Milton’s Lycidas does not meet any of these standards. Lycidas is a typical pastoral elegy that does not strike any chords of emotion. Cleary …show more content…
This section lacks a quality of reality. Not only is Milton reusing a typical picture of pastoral elegy but he also wants to give an elevated experience to his readers rather then show a real sense of grief or sadness. Later on in the poem, Milton goes overboard with his pastoral imagery illustrating a patch of flowers: “Bring the rathe primrose that forsaken dies,/the tufted crow-toe, and pale jessamine,/The white pink, and the pansy freakt with jet,/ the glowing violet,”(142-145). One would have to be a botanist in order to appreciate all the natural scenery. A reader who wants to understands Milton’s loss and love for his friend wants to feel emotion from the poem without getting tangled in the “laurels, myrtles and ivy”. Johnson clarifies this point: “ . . . there is no nature, for there is no truth; there is no art, for there is nothing new.” (Johnson) The nature can be seen as the green hills and sheep in the poem;it has nothing to do with Milton’s own nature but simply refers to the classical pictures he creates. Milton fails to write with ease or natural feelings.
If Milton were truly moved by the loss of his friend, he would not be able to create such intricate imagery nor all the references to mythology. Johnson states that “Where there is leisure for fiction there is little grief” (Johnson). Milton tells his story using nymphs: “To sport with Amaryllis in the shade,/Or with the tangles of Neaera’s hair?” (68-69) These lines occur right after Milton

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