John Milton’s 1637 poem “Lycidas” is a pastoral elegy told from the point of view of a shepherd grieving the loss of his friend, Lycidas. Written in honor of Milton’s late classmate, Edward King, “Lycidas” is a Christian allegory. This essay situates “Lycidas” within the history and characteristics of the pastoral elegy before analyzing how the poem at once inhabits and progressively deviates from the traditional form. Milton combines the traditional pastoral form with Elizabethan ideals and imagery to affirm his own religious, political, and existential views about death and the afterlife. The poem becomes increasingly complex, increasingly modern, and increasingly focused on the present.



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