Bob's Byway


1608 - 1674

LYCIDAS     (Excerpts)

 * This poem provides an example of a pastoral elegy, written in verse paragraphs.
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,
 * The title, pronounced LIS-ih-dus, is taken from the name of a shepherd in Virgil's eclogues. Laurel, myrtle, and ivy, mentioned in the opening lines, are symbols of honor which were bestowed upon distinguished poets in ancient Greece.
Ye myrtles brown, with ivy never sere,
I come to pluck your berries harsh and crude,
And with forced 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 float upon his watery bier
Unwept, and welter to the parching wind,
Without the meed of some melodious tear.

 * The varying stanza lengths, irregular rhyme schemes, and occasional short lines in Lycidas resemble an Italian canzone.
        *        *         *        *

  But O the heavy change, now thou art gone,
Now thou art gone, and never must return!
Thee, Shepherd, thee the woods, and desert caves,
With wild thyme and the gadding vine o'ergrown,
And all their echoes, mourn.
The willows, and the hazel copses green,
Shall now no more be seen,
Fanning their joyous leaves to thy soft lays.
As killing as the canker to the rose,
Or taint-worm to the weanling herds that graze,
Or frost to flowers, that their gay wardrobe wear,
When first the white-thorn blows;
Such, Lycidas, thy loss to Shepherd’s ear.

        *        *         *        *

 * An example of epanalepsis.
  Weep no more, woeful shepherds weep no more,    *
For Lycidas, your sorrow, is not dead,
Sunk though he be beneath the watery floor;
 * Day-star = a kenning.
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,
 * . . . him that walked the waves = a periphrasis.
Through the dear might of him that walked the waves,    *
Where other groves, and other streams along,
With nectar pure his oozy locks he laves,
And hears the unexpressive nuptial 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’ oaks and rills,
While the still morn went out with sandals gray;
To Pastoral Elegy in the Glossary
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To Verse Paragraph in the Glossary
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With eager thought warbling his Doric lay:
And now the sun had stretched out all the hills,
And now was dropt into the western bay,
At last he rose, and twitched his mantle blue:
To-morrow to fresh woods, and pastures new.


 * This poem provides an example of an idyll.
Hence loathèd Melancholy
    Of Cerberus and blackest Midnight born,
In Stygian cave forlorn,
    'Mongst horrid shapes, and shrieks, and sights unholy!
Find out some uncouth cell,
    Where brooding darkness spreads his jealous wings,
And the night-raven sings;
    There, under ebon shades, and low-brow'd rocks,
As ragged as thy locks,
    In dark Cimmerian desert ever dwell.
But come, thou goddess fair and free,
In Heav'n yclept Euphrosyne,
And by men, heart-easing Mirth,
Whom lovely Venus, at a birth,
With two sister Graces more,
 * . . . ivy-crowned = an epithet.
To ivy-crownèd Bacchus bore;    *
Or whether (as some sager sing)
The frolic wind that breathes the spring,
Zephyr with Aurora playing,
As he met her once a-Maying;
There on beds of violets blue,
And fresh-blown roses wash'd in dew,
Fill'd her with thee a daughter fair,
So buxom, blithe, and debonair.
Haste thee, nymph, and bring with thee
Jest and youthful Jollity,
Quips, and Cranks, and wanton Wiles,
Nods, and Becks, and wreathèd Smiles,
Such as hang on Hebe's cheek,
And love to live in dimple sleek;
Sport, that wrinkled Care derides,
And Laughter holding both his sides.
Come, and trip it as ye go
On the light fantastic toe;
And in thy right hand lead with thee,
The mountain nymph, sweet Liberty;
And if I give thee honour due,
Mirth, admit me of thy crew,
To live with her, and live with thee,
In unreprovèd pleasures free;
To hear the lark begin his flight,
And singing, startle the dull night,
From his watch-tow'r in the skies,
Till the dappled dawn doth rise;
Then to come in spite of sorrow,
And at my window bid good-morrow,
Through the sweet-briar, or the vine,
Or the twisted eglantine:
While the cock, with lively din,
Scatters the rear of darkness thin,
And to the stack, or the barn-door,
 * Struts his dames before = hypallage.
Stoutly struts his dames before;    *
Oft list'ning how the hounds and horn
Cheerly rouse the slumb'ring morn,
From the side of some hoar hill,
Through the high wood echoing shrill;
Sometime walking not unseen
 * hillocks green = an anastrophe.
By hedgerow elms, on hillocks green,    *
Right against the eastern gate,
Where the great sun begins his state,
Rob'd in flames, and amber light,.
The clouds in thousand liveries dight;
While the ploughman, near at hand,
Whistles o’er the furrow'd land,
And the milkmaid singeth blithe,
And the mower whets his scythe,
And every shepherd tells his tale
Under the hawthorn in the dale.
Straight mine eye hath caught new pleasures,
Whilst the landskip round it measures;
Russet lawns and fallows grey,
Where the nibbling flocks do stray;
Mountains on whose barren breast
The labouring clouds do often rest;
 * Three more anastrophes in these two lines.
Meadows trim, with daisies pied,     *
Shallow brooks, and rivers wide;     *
Towers, and battlements it sees
Bosom'd high in tufted trees,
Where perhaps some beauty lies,
The cynosure of neighbouring eyes.
Hard by, a cottage chimney smokes,
From betwixt two agèd oaks,
Where Corydon and Thyrsis met,
Are at their savory dinner set
Of herbs, and other country messes,
Which the neat-handed Phillis dresses;
And then in haste her bow'r she leaves,
With Thestylis to bind the sheaves;
Or, if the earlier season lead,
To the tanned haycock in the mead,
Sometimes with secure delight
The upland hamlets will invite,
When the merry bells ring round,
And the jocund rebecks sound
To many a youth, and many a maid,
Dancing in the chequer'd shade;
And young and old come forth to play
On a sunshine holiday,
Till the livelong daylight fail;
Then to the spicy, nut-brown ale,
With stories told of many a feat;
How faery Mab the junkets eat;
She was pinch'd, and pull'd, she said,
And he, by friar’s lantern led,
Tells how the drudging goblin sweat
To earn his cream-bowl duly set,
When in one night, ere glimpse of morn,
His shadowy flail hath thresh'd the corn
That ten day-labourers could not end;
Then lies him down, the lubber fiend,
And, stretch'd out all the chimney's length,
Basks at the fire his hairy strength;
And crop-full, out of doors he flings
Ere the first cock his matin rings.
Thus done the tales, to bed they creep,
By whispering winds soon lulled asleep.
Tower'd cities please us then,
And the busy hum of men,
Where throngs of knights and barons bold,
 * high triumphs hold = an anastrophe
In weeds of peace, high triumphs hold,    *
With store of ladies, whose bright eyes
Rain influence, and judge the prize
Of wit, or arms, while both contend
To win her grace, whom all commend
There let Hymen oft appear
In saffron robe, with taper clear,
And pomp, and feast, and revelry,
With masque, and antique pageantry;
Such sights as youthful Poets dream
On summer eves by haunted stream.
Then to the well-trod stage anon,
If Jonson’s learnèd sock be on,
Or sweetest Shakespeare, Fancy’s child,
Warble his native wood-notes wild.
And ever, against eating cares,
Lap me in soft Lydian airs,
Married to immortal verse,
Such as the meeting soul may pierce
In notes, with many a winding bout
Of linkèd sweetness long drawn out,
With wanton heed, and giddy cunning,
The melting voice through mazes running;
Untwisting all the chains that tie
The hidden soul of harmony;
That Orpheus’ self may heave his head
From golden slumber on a bed
Of heap'd Elysian flow'rs, and hear
Such strains as would have won the ear
To Idyll in the Glossary
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Of Pluto, to have quite set free
His half regain'd Eurydice
These delights, if thou canst give,
Mirth , with thee I mean to live.