1806 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Milton

John Aikin, in Letters to a Young Lady (1806) 125-26.



If, casting your eye through Milton's smaller pieces you should be attracted to his Monody of Lycidas, you will meet with a poem of a peculiar cast, concerning which you will probably find it difficult to fix your judgment. Tributes of sorrow to the memory of the dead under the fictitious form of pastoral were at that time very common, and they have been justly censured by Dr. Johnson and others for that want of reality which almost entirely destroys their interest. In this piece, the ecclesiastical state of the country at that period is allegorically shadowed out under the pastoral fiction, and the writer has indulged his religious zeal, while lamenting his friend. Moreover, it borrows from that source. The constructions are also occasionally harsh, and the language obscure. All these circumstances will deduct from your pleasure in reading it; yet there are passages in which I think you will recognize the master-hand of a true poet.