Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.John Milton. 16081674
317. Lycidas A Lament for a friend drowned in his passage from Chester on the Irish Seas, 1637
|YET once more, O ye Laurels, and once more
|Ye Myrtles brown, with Ivy never-sear,
|I com to pluck your Berries harsh and crude,
|And with forc’d fingers rude,
|Shatter your leaves before the mellowing year.
|Bitter constraint, and sad occasion dear,
|Compels me to disturb your season due:
|For Lycidas is dead, dead ere his prime
|Young Lycidas, and hath not left his peer:
|Who would not sing for Lycidas? he knew
|Himself to sing, and build the lofty rhyme.
|He must not flote upon his watry bear
|Unwept, and welter to the parching wind,
|Without the meed of som melodious tear.
|Begin, then, Sisters of the sacred well,
|That from beneath the seat of Jove doth spring,
|Begin, and somwhat loudly sweep the string.
|Hence with denial vain, and coy excuse,
|So may som gentle Muse
|With lucky words favour my destin’d Urn,
|And as he passes turn,
|And bid fair peace be to my sable shrowd.
|For we were nurst upon the self-same hill,
|Fed the same flock, by fountain, shade, and rill.
|Together both, ere the high Lawns appear’d
|Under the opening eye-lids of the morn,
|We drove a field, and both together heard
|What time the Gray-fly winds her sultry horn,
|Batt’ning our flocks with the fresh dews of night,
|Oft till the Star that rose, at Ev’ning, bright
|Toward Heav’ns descent had slop’d his westering wheel.
|Mean while the Rural ditties were not mute,
|Temper’d to th’Oaten Flute;
|Rough Satyrs danc’d, and Fauns with clov’n heel,
|From the glad sound would not be absent long,
|And old Damætas lov’d to hear our song.
|But O the heavy change, now thou art gon,
|Now thou art gon, and never must return!
|Thee Shepherd, thee the Woods, and desert Caves,
|With wilde Thyme and the gadding Vine o’regrown,
|And all their echoes mourn.
|The Willows, and the Hazle Copses green,
|Shall now no more be seen,
|Fanning their joyous Leaves to thy soft layes.
|As killing as the Canker to the Rose,
|Or Taint-worm to the weanling Herds that graze,
|Or Frost to Flowers, that their gay wardrop wear,
|When first the White thorn blows;
|Such, Lycidas, thy loss to Shepherds ear.
|Where were ye Nymphs when the remorseless deep
|Clos’d o’re the head of your lov’d Lycidas?
|For neither were ye playing on the steep,
|Where your old Bards, the famous Druids ly,
|Nor on the shaggy top of Mona high,
|Nor yet where Deva spreads her wisard stream:
|Ay me, I fondly dream!
|Had ye bin there—for what could that have don?
|What could the Muse her self that Orpheus bore,
|The Muse her self, for her inchanting son
|Whom Universal nature did lament,
|When by the rout that made the hideous roar,
|His goary visage down the stream was sent,
|Down the swift Hebrus to the Lesbian shore.
|Alas! what boots it with uncessant care
|To tend the homely slighted Shepherds trade,
|And strictly meditate the thankles Muse,
|Were it not better don as others use,
|To sport with Amaryllis in the shade,
|Or with the tangles of Neæra’s hair?
|Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise
|(That last infirmity of Noble mind)
|To scorn delights, and live laborious dayes;
|But the fair Guerdon when we hope to find,
|And think to burst out into sudden blaze,
|Comes the blind Fury with th’abhorrèd shears,
|And slits the thin spun life. But not the praise,
|Phoebus repli’d, and touch’d my trembling ears;
|Fame is no plant that grows on mortal soil,
|Nor in the glistering foil
|Set off to th’world, nor in broad rumour lies,
|But lives and spreds aloft by those pure eyes,
|And perfet witnes of all judging Jove;
|As he pronounces lastly on each deed,
|Of so much fame in Heav’n expect thy meed.
|O fountain Arethuse, and thou honour’d floud,
|Smooth-sliding Mincius, crown’d with vocall reeds,
|That strain I heard was of a higher mood:
|But now my Oate proceeds,
|And listens to the Herald of the Sea
|That came in Neptune’s plea,
|He ask’d the Waves, and ask’d the Fellon winds,
|What hard mishap hath doom’d this gentle swain?
|And question’d every gust of rugged wings
|That blows from off each beakèd Promontory,
|They knew not of his story,
|And sage Hippotades their answer brings,
|That not a blast was from his dungeon stray’d,
|The Ayr was calm, and on the level brine,
|Sleek Panope with all her sisters play’d.
|It was that fatall and perfidious Bark
|Built in th’eclipse, and rigg’d with curses dark,
|That sunk so low that sacred head of thine.
|Next Camus, reverend Sire, went footing slow,
|His Mantle hairy, and his Bonnet sedge,
|Inwrought with figures dim, and on the edge
|Like to that sanguine flower inscrib’d with woe.
|Ah; Who hath reft (quoth he) my dearest pledge?
|Last came, and last did go,
|The Pilot of the Galilean lake,
|Two massy Keyes he bore of metals twain,
|(The Golden opes, the Iron shuts amain)
|He shook his Miter’d locks, and stern bespake,
|How well could I have spar’d for thee, young swain,
|Anow of such as for their bellies sake,
|Creep and intrude, and climb into the fold?
|Of other care they little reck’ning make,
|Then how to scramble at the shearers feast,
|And shove away the worthy bidden guest.
|Blind mouthes! that scarce themselves know how to hold
|A Sheep-hook, or have learn’d ought els the least
|That to the faithfull Herdmans art belongs!
|What recks it them? What need they? They are sped;
|And when they list, their lean and flashy songs
|Grate on their scrannel Pipes of wretched straw,
|The hungry Sheep look up, and are not fed,
|But swoln with wind, and the rank mist they draw,
|Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread:
|Besides what the grim Woolf with privy paw
|Daily devours apace, and nothing sed,
|But that two-handed engine at the door,
|Stands ready to smite once, and smite no more.
|Return Alpheus, the dread voice is past,
|That shrunk thy streams; Return Sicilian Muse,
|And call the Vales, and bid them hither cast
|Their Bels, and Flourets of a thousand hues.
|Ye valleys low where the milde whispers use,
|Of shades and wanton winds, and gushing brooks,
|On whose fresh lap the swart Star sparely looks,
|Throw hither all your quaint enameld eyes,
|That on the green terf suck the honied showres,
|And purple all the ground with vernal flowres.
|Bring the rathe Primrose that forsaken dies.
|The tufted Crow-toe, and pale Gessamine,
|The white Pink, and the Pansie freakt with jeat,
|The glowing Violet.
|The Musk-rose, and the well attir’d Woodbine.
|With Cowslips wan that hang the pensive hed,
|And every flower that sad embroidery wears:
|Bid Amaranthus all his beauty shed,
|And Daffadillies fill their cups with tears,
|To strew the Laureat Herse where Lycid lies.
|For so to interpose a little ease,
|Let our frail thoughts dally with false surmise.
|Ay me! Whilst thee the shores, and sounding Seas
|Wash far away, where ere thy bones are hurld,
|Whether beyond the stormy Hebrides,
|Where thou perhaps under the whelming tide
|Visit’st the bottom of the monstrous world;
|Or whether thou to our moist vows deny’d,
|Sleep’st by the fable of Bellerus old,
|Where the great vision of the guarded Mount
|Looks toward Namancos and Bayona’s hold;
|Look homeward Angel now, and melt with ruth.
|And, O ye Dolphins, waft the haples youth.
|Weep no more, woful Shepherds weep no more,
|For Lycidas your sorrow is not dead,
|Sunk though he be beneath the watry floar,
|So sinks the day-star in the Ocean bed,
|And yet anon repairs his drooping head,
|And tricks his beams, and with new spangled Ore,
|Flames in the forehead of the morning sky:
|So Lycidas sunk low, but mounted high,
|Through the dear might of him that walk’d the waves
|Where other groves, and other streams along,
|With Nectar pure his oozy Lock’s he laves,
|And hears the unexpressive nuptiall Song,
|In the blest Kingdoms meek of joy and love.
|There entertain him all the Saints above,
|In solemn troops, and sweet Societies
|That sing, and singing in their glory move,
|And wipe the tears for ever from his eyes.
|Now Lycidas the Shepherds weep no more;
|Hence forth thou art the Genius of the shore,
|In thy large recompense, and shalt be good
|To all that wander in that perilous flood.
|Thus sang the uncouth Swain to th’Okes and rills,
|While the still morn went out with Sandals gray,
|He touch’d the tender stops of various Quills,
|With eager thought warbling his Dorick lay:
|And now the Sun had stretch’d out all the hills,
|And now was dropt into the Western bay;
|At last he rose, and twitch’d his Mantle blew:
|To morrow to fresh Woods, and Pastures new.