Water symbolism in Lycidas

Essay by saraspanksterUniversity, Bachelor's September 2004

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Elizabeth Stevens


Professor Baumel

21 September 2004

More often than necessary, the speaker makes several comments about how water plays an important role in sadness and death. Typically, water can be compared to tears of sadness and/or joy. The speaker uses this comparison and contrast to explain both the tradgedy and triumph of the death of Lycidas.

The water imagery 'fountain, flood, sea, waves' of the seventh stanza recall King's death in the chilly waters of the Irish Sea. The speaker is angry and wishes to find a scapegoat to put the blame on for Lycidas dying. However Neptune and other aquatic deities deny any responsibility for the death and the speaker is obliged to place the blame on 'the fatal and perfidious bark/ Built in th'eclipse, and rigged with curses dark'. The ship is a metaphor for the soul, condemned by original sin to suffer death.

The poet laments not specifically King's death but the common death of all with particular reference to his own fate.

In line 150, Milton makes a reference to "daffadillies filling their cups with tears." Not only is this a reference to water, but to sadness as well. Tears are a product of sadness. The flowers are mourning the death of a dear friend. Myabe Milton is comparing himself, the writer, to the flower. The beauty is no longer apparent in the flower when all the reader and the speaker can identify about the flower is the fact that it is filled with tears.

Towards the end of the poem, the writer tells the audience not to weep. Although Lycidas lies in a watery grave beneath the ocean he is still alive in memory. He has sunk low to the bottom of the ocean but he has been...