Lyric Tragedy by R. P. Draper (auth.)

By R. P. Draper (auth.)

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Sample text

Yet the tradition to which both poems, but 'Thyrsis' more specifically, are attached is one that has been modified by Christianity and moulded, in Milton's Lycidas, into an ultimately anti-tragic form. Arnold dwells on the modern implications of a . fallen world and a lost paradise; Milton contains his sense ofloss within a frame which his essentially heroic faith provides. Crisis tests Milton's faith and stimulates a power of resistance that gives more tragic force to his work than is to be found in Arnold's; but the outcome is a vindication of his faith - despite the suggestion made by some critics that Lycidas has a tragic structure - which is beyond tragedy.

6 That the poem nevertheless remains pastoral in form is accounted for by the fact that Milton is not yet sure enough of himself to venture on full tragic expression. He prefers a mixed form which allows him to break out into the higher style and subject-matter of tragedy while keeping his feet on the traditionally lowly ground of pastoral. Lycidas is thus 'a pastoral lyric on classical and Italian models, musically contrasted in the tragic mode'. 7 Persuasive as Hunt is, his argument for the influence of a new conception of the canzone is interesting rather than conclusive.

The theme is now the loss of good shepherds (priests more than poets this time) and the injustice of apparently leaving the field free for the bad. The language is again that of tragic satire, overflowing with contempt for the greedy self-seekers who only care to scramble at the shearers feast, And shove away the worthy bidden guest. (117-18) 'Lycidas' and the Pastoral Elegy 47 But this is not superstitious misrepresentation. It must be conceded that Milton, not simply St Peter, is in deadly earnest.

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