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This poem first appeared in a Cambridge Collection of verses on the Death of Mr. Edward King, fellow of Christ's College, printed at Cambridge in a thin quarto, 1638. It consists of three Greek, nineteen Latin, and thirteen English poems. The three Greek are written by William Iveson, John Pots, and Henry More, the great Platonic theologist, and then or soon afterwards a fellow of Christ's college. The nineteen Latin are by Anonymous, N. Felton, R. Mason, John Pullen, Jofeph Pearson, R. Browne, J. B. Charles Mason,
Coke, Stephen Anstie, Joseph Hoper, R.C. Thomas Farnaby, Mr. King's Schoolmaster, but not the celebrated rhetorician, Henry King, Mr. Edward King's brother, John Hayward chancellor and ca non residentiary of Lincoln, M. Honywood who has two copies, Wil. liam Brearley, Christopher Bainbrigg, and R. Widdrington. The thir. teen English, by Henry King abovementioned, J. Beaumont, Anony, mous, John Cleveland the Poet, William More, William Hall, Samson Briggs, Ifaac Olivier, J.H. C. B. R. Brown, T. Norton, and our author John Milton, whose Monody, entitled LYGID AS, and subfcribed with his initials only, stands last in the Collection. J. H.'s copy is inscribed, “ To the deceased's vertuous Sifter, the Ladie Mar. “garet Loder.” She here appears to have lived near Saint Chad's church at Litchfield, and to have excelled in painting. Cleveland's copy is very witty, But the two concluding lines are hyperboles of wit.
Our tcares thall seem the Irish seas,
The contributors were not all of Christ's College. The Greek and Latin pieces have this title, which indeed serves for the title to the book, “ Juita E DOVARDO KING naufrago, ab Amicis “ mærentibus, amoris et revélas xúern. Si re&te calculum ponas, ubique “ naufragium eft. Petron. Arb. CANTABRIGIÆ, Apud Thomam “ Buck et Rogerum Daniel, celeberrime Academiæ typographos. "1638.” The English are thus intitled, “Obsequies to the memorie “ of Mr. Edward King, Anno Dom. 1638. Printed by Th. Buck " and R. Daniel, printers to the Vniversitie of Cambridge. 1638." To the whole is prefixed a prose inscriptive panegyric on Mr. King, containing short notices of his life, family, character, and deplorable catastrophe. This I suspect to have been composed either by Milton
In this Monody the author bewails a learned friend,
unfortunately drowned in his passage from Chester on the Irish seas, 1637. And by occasion foretels the ruin of our corrupted clergy, then in their highth.
ET once more, Oye Laurels, and once more
or Henry More, who perhaps were two the most able masters in Latinity which the college could now produce.
Peck examined this first edition of LYCIDAS, which he borrowed of Baker the antiquary, very superficially. And all that Milton's latte editor, the learned bishop of Bristol, knew about it, is apparently taken from Peck.
Peck is of opinion, that Milton's poem is placed last in this Cambridge Collection, on account of his supposed quarrel with Christ's college. A more probable and obvious reason may be assigned. Without entering at prelent into the flory of Milton's dispute with his college, I hall only just observe, that when he wrote LYCIDAS, he had quitted the university about five years, and that he now resided with his father and mother at Horton in Buckinghamshire: he was therefore solicited by his friends whom he had left behind at Christ's college, to alift on this occasion, and, who certainly could never in. tend to disgrace what they had aked as a favour. In a collection of this sort, the last is the place of honour.
V.1. Yet once more, &c.] The best poets imperceptibly adopt phrases and formularies from the writings of their contemporaries or immediate predeceffours. An Elegy on the death of the celebrated Countess of Pembroke, fir Philip Sydney's fifter, begins thus.
Yet once againe, my Muse. Sce SONCES AND SONNETTES OF VNCERTAIN AUCTOURS, added to Surrey's and Wyat's Poems, edit. Tottell, fol. 85.
It is a remark of Peck, which has been silently adopted by doctor Newton, that this exordium, ret once more, has an allusion to some of Milton's former poems on Amilar occasions, such as, ON THE DEATH
I come to pluck your bérries harsh and crude,
OF A FAIR INFANT, EPITAPH ON THE MARCHION ESS OF WINE CHESTER, &c. But why thould it have a reftrictive reference, why
& retrospect to his elegiac pieces in particular? It has a reference to ? bis poetical compositions in general, or rather to his last poem which
was COMUs. He would say, “ I am again, in the midst of other “ ftudies, unexpectedly and unwillingly called back to poetry, again “ compelled to write verses, in consequence of the recent disastrous " loss of my shipwrecked friend, &c." Neither are the plants here mentioned, as some have suspected, appropriated to elegy. They are fymbolical of general poetry. Theocritus, in an Epigram which shall be cited in the next note, dedicates Myrtles to Apollo. Doctor New. ton, however, has supposed, that Milton, while he mentions the laurel in the character of a poet as sacred to Apollo, adds the myrtle the trec of Venus, to sew that he was of a proper age for love. It is at least certain, that Milton, whatever hidden meaning he might have in enu. merating the Myrtle, was of a proper age for love, being now twentyeight years old. In the mean time, I would not exclude another probable implication : by plucking the berries and the leaves of laurel, myrtle, and ivy, he might intend to point out the pastoral or rural turn of his poem.
2. re myrtles brown] Brown and Black are classical epithets for ths Myrtle. Theocritus, Epigr. i. 3.
Τα δε ΜΕΛΑΜΦΥΛΛΑΙ ΔΑΦΝ ΑΙ τιν, ΓΙόε Παία».
At nigra filia babentes myrti tibi, Pyrbie Apollo. Ovid, Art. AMATOR. Lib. iii. 690.
Ros maris et lauri NIGRAQUE MYRTUS olet, Horace contrasts the brown myrtle with the green ivy, Op.i. xxxv.17,
Læta quod pubes edera virenti
Gaudeat, PULL A magis atque MYRTO. ibid. -With ivy never fere.] A notion has prevailed, that this pafto. ral is written in the Doric dialect, by which in English we are to understand an antiquated style. Doctor Newton observes, “The rea“ der cannot but observe, that there are more antiquated and obso“ lete words in this than in any other of Milton's poems.” Of the three or four words in LYCIDAS which even we now call obsolete, almost all are either used in Milton's other poems, or were familiar to rçaders and writers of verse in the year 1638, The word fere in the
text, one of the most uncommon of these words, occurs in PARADISE Lost, B. x. 1071.
With matter sere foment.
And in our author's Psalms, ii. 27.
If once his wrath take fire like fuel sERE,
5. Shatter pour leaves before the mellowing year.) So in PARAD. L. B. X. 1066.
& HATTERING the graceful locks
Of these fair spreading trees.
Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.
Cosa non detta in prosa mai, ne in RIMA.
A tale in prose ne verse yet sung or said.
spelled without an b: whereas in all the Editions, Rhime in this " place of the poem was spelled with an b. Milton probably meant a “ difference in the thing, by making so constant a difference in the
spelling; and intended that we should here understand by RHIME “ not the jingling sound of like Endings, but Verse in general.” Review or The Text of Parad. L. Lond. 1733. p.5. At least in this passage
He must not flote
15 That from beneath the seat of Jove doth spring, Begin, and somewhat loudly sweep the string.
of LYCIDAS, we have no such nicety of spelling, but Rhyme appears
Thou kenft not, Percy, how the RIME should rage,
With queint Bellona in her equipage !
The wanton Ovid whose enticing Rimes. It is wonderful that Bentley, with all his Grecian predilections, and his critical knowledge of the precise original meaning of PYOMOE, should in the passage from Paradise Lost, have wished to substitute Song for Ruime. Gray, who studied and copied Milton with true penetration and taste, in his MUSIC-ODE, uses Rhyme in Milton's sense.
Meek Newton's self bends from his state sublime,
And nods his hoary head, and listens to the RHIME. 12. He must not flote upon bis watry bier.) So Jonson, in Cynthia's REVELLS, acted by the boys of queen Elizabeth's Chapel 1600. A.i.S.ii.
Sing some mourning straine
Over his wATRIE HEARSE. 13. Unsept, and welter, &c.] Thus in our author's EPITAPHIUM Damonis, a Latin poem on the death of another of his friends. v.28.
INDEPLORATO non comminuere sepulchro. 17. Begin, and somewhat loudly sweep the firing.] Tickell reads louder, in his edition of 1720, against the authority of the carly editions, which