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Of shades, and wanton winds, and gushing brooks;
137. Of shades. Grammatical construction ? Wanton. “The epithet may remind us of the mythological amours of the winds." The word is from the negative wan, without (whence comes our wan, without color), and A.-S. teon (Ger. ziehen) to lead ; hence it means without leadership or restraint.
138. Swart star. “The dog-star, Sirius, whose appearance above the horizon was supposed to be physically connected with the oppressive heats of summer, — whence our phrase 'the dog-days.' It is called 'swart' or 'swarthy' from the effects of heat on the complexion.” In Horace, Odes, III. xiii. 9, we find flagrantis atrox hora Caniculo, the fierce season of the blazing dog-star. Possibly Milton means the sun, as Horace (Satires, I. 9, 73) has 'sol niger,' the sun that turns things black,' or 'the injurious sun.' “The flowers that the poet wants to be brought to him are such as have grown in shady vales.” Masson. Sparely, sparingly, seldlom. Looks. Warton conjectures that the astrological aspect of a star is here intended.' So 'direlooking’ in Arcădes, l. 52. See Par. Lost, vi. 313.
139. Quaint, here used, as often in Shakespeare, for fine, nice, neat, pretty; or in its usual Miltonic sense of curious, fantastic, as Jerram thinks. (Lat. comptus, adorned ; Old Fr. coint. But Wedgwood says, “Notwithstanding the singular agreement with Lat. comptus, trimmed, allorned, the word must be derived either from Lat. cognitus, known, or from Ger. kund, kundig, known, acquainted with.") Eyes. In Midsummer Night's Dream, IV. i. 60, we have “pretty flowerets' eyes.' So the daisy is the day's eye. Enamelled, as if painted on enamel. What is enamel ?
140. Honeyed. Milton very often makes adjectives of past participles.
141. Purple. What is the subject nominative ? Purple, which usually is red tinged with blue, sometimes 'denotes any bright color, from a dazzling white to a deep red.' Horace, Odes, IV. i. 10; Virg. Æneid, IX. 349; Par. Lost, III. 364. Vernal flowers. It will be well in reading the next nine lines to observe what is commonly called 'the language of flowers.' In one of the elegies of Sir John Beaumont (1582 - 1628) is the following:
“Here fresh roses lie
Bring the rathe primrose that forsaken dies,
142. Rathe (Ice. hradr, quick; Norse rad, hasty ; Dutch rad, nimble), early. Rather is the comiparative of this old word, and means sooner, earlier. Here begins the famous flower passage, which the original manuscript shows to have been carefully and repeatedly revised. “Scott in his Critical Essays” complains that “too many flowers are specified, and spring flowers are injudiciously blended with summer ones.” This last point resembles the old censure of Shakespeare for not observing the “unities' of time and place! Primrose. Why primrose? Because, like Lycidas, it is prematurely cut off ; as Shakespeare says, 'pale primroses, that die unmarried, ere they can behold bright Phæbus in his strength ’? or better, perhaps, because of 'tha modest nature of the flower, blooming in retired spots, and often failing unnoticed '?
143. Tufted. “The crowfoot grows singly ; but as it divides into several parts, Milton was justified in his epithet.” Keightley. Crow-toe, so called ‘from its claw-like spreading legumes,' says Prior. Popular Names of British Plants. Why is this flower mentioned ? We perhaps gain light on this point from the original draft in Milton's handwriting among the Cambridge MSS. It reads,
“Bring the rathe primrose that unwedded dies,
Coloring the pale cheek of unenjoyed love;
Next add Narcissus that still weeps in vain." Is the crow-toe, then, 'that sad flower,' the 'sanguine flower inscribed with woe,' the purple hyacinth? There would be a peculiar appropriateness in this ; for Hyacinth, like Lyciilas, met with an early and sudden death. Of the water crowfoot, howerer, it is remarked that, “ when growing in swiftrunning water, the lower leaves may be compared to a tuft of bright green hair waving to and fro in the current.” Maunder's Treasury of Botany. Was Milton, then, thinking of the 'oozy locks' of Lycidas, laved by the cruel, crawling foam' beyond the 'sands o’ Dee,' and asking himself, in the spirit of Charles Kingsley, “0, is it weed, or fish, or floating hair”? Pale. As if with sorrow and shailow? The white-flowered jessamine is common in the South of Europe. Jessaming (Persian jùsmin, fragrant). Why this flower ? Because of its fragrance, like the memory of Lycidas ? Quarles (1592 - 1644) says in his Emblems, V. 2, “Above the rest, let Jesse's sovereign flower per: fume my qualming breast”; playing upon the woril jessamine.
144. White pink. Why white ? Is it representative of the spotless purity of Lycidas ? Pink (Fr. pince, a tip or thin point). Probably from the sharp-pointed leaves set in pairs upon the stalk like pincers.' Wedgwood. Before Miltou's day, the pink was the emblem of perfection. Thus in Shakes.
The glowing violet,
Romeo and Jul., “I am the very pink of courtesy"; and colloquially it is still so used to denote the acme of excellence. Pansy (Fr. pensée, thought; Lat. pensare, to weigh, ponder). The pansy, as its name indicates, has ‘from time whereof the memory of man runneth not to the contrary,' typified thought. Freaked (0. Eng. freken, frecken, to spot, freckle ? or Ital. fregare, to streak; frego, a dash, stroke?), variegated, fleckted. There are inany varieties of pansy, or heart's-ease. Why does Milton select that which is 'freaked with jet’? Evidently because of its 'sad embroidery,' which adds a mournful tinge to the sweet thoughtfulness of the flower. The savor of grief is in those freaks of jet; as the fairy in Midsummer Night's Dream says of the spots in the gold coats of the cowslip,
. “In those freckles live their savors." Spenser (Faerie Queene, III. xi. 37) represents Hyacinth as changed into a pansy.
145. Violet. Modest, yet glowing as with the warmth of immortal life.
146. Musk-rose. Of course the rose, queen of flowers, highest emblem of beauty, must not be wanting. But why single out the musk-rose? Because of its odor, outlasting all others, and fitly symbolizing the enduring fragrance of the memory of Lycidas? Woodbine. This is the honeysuckle, which Keats characterizes as 'of velvet leaves and bugle bloom divine,' and which Milton elsewhere calls the twisted eglantine' (L'Allegro, 48). The Treasury of Botany (Lindley and Moore, Maunder's ed.) says : “No British shrub claims our favorable notice so early in the season as the honeysuckle (caprifolium periclymenum); for even before the frosts of January have attained their greatest intensity, we may discover in the sheltered wood or hedge-bank its wiry stem throwing out tufts of tender green leaves from the extremity of every twig. Later in the season it .... displays its numerous clusters of trumpet-shaped crean)-colored flowers [the ' bugle bloom' of Keats] tinged with crimson, and shedding a perfume which, in sweetness, is surpassed by no other British plant. .... In October, the woodbine endeavors to impart a grace to the fading year by producing a new crop of flowers, which, though not so luxuriant nor so numerous as the first, are quite as fragrant. Clusters of flowers and of ripe berries may then be found on the same twig, uniting autumn with summer as the early foliage united winter with spring." Well-attired. (Attire is from the Old French atour, attour, a French hood, or head-dress for a woman. Wedgwood. This original meaning is seen in ‘attired,' Levit. xvi. 4, and in
tired,' 2 Kings ix. 30 ; also in Shakespeare's fifty-third Sonnet, Much Ado About Nothing, III. iv. 13, and repeatedly elsewhere.) In the early proniise of the woodbine, its seeming lofty aspiration, its wondrous fragrance, its affectionate twining, or in its rich and strange 'attire' of beautiful blossoms mingled sometimes with bright crimson berries, - 'the virgin crimson of mod. esty,' as Shakespeare has it, - can we see why Milton chose this flower ?
With cowslips wan that hang the pensive head,
147. Cowslips. Marsh-marigolds? These are among the early spring flowers in the watery meadows. The flowers are said to be narcotic. See the characterization of the marigold in the long quotation from Shakespeare, infra (on line 150). But is not Milton's cowslip the primula veris, a species of primrose, a drooping flower? It bears umbels of small yellow blossoms, tinged with orange, and rising from a cluster of downy leaves. It has little or no resemblance to the caltha palustris, marsh-marigold, or cowslip of New England. See Henry V., V. ii. 49, where Shakespeare speaks of the 'freckled cowslip'; and Midsummer Night's Dream, II, i. 13, where, in speaking of the cowslip, he says, “In those freckles live their savors.' Note on line 144. (Cowslip is “divided cow-slip, not cows-lip ; as shown by the Old Eng. oxanslippa, oxlip, where the an is the sign of the genitive case. The meaning of slip is uncertain.” Stevens and Morris.)
148. Sad embroidery. The first draft had 'sorrow's livery'; the second, sad escutcheon. Which is the best expression of the three? Why? Em. broidery. This suggests Chaucer's description of the young Squire, —
“ Embrouded was he as it were a mead
All full of freshe floures white and red.” 149. Amaranthus (Gr. åpápavtos, unfading; fr. å, without, and papáLVELV, to wither, decay ; ‘so called because its flowers, when cropped, do not soon wither'). It has 'green, purplish, or crimson flowers, in large spiked clusters.' 'Love-lies-bleeding' is a species of it. Amaranth is the emblem of immortality. See the exquisite lines in Par. Lost, III. 353 - 359.
150. Daffadillies (Gr. do pódelos ; Fr. fleur d'asphodèle). This flower is the narcissus? In the original draft Milton has the line, “ Next add Narcissus that still weeps in vain.” The story.of Narcissus, dying of love and changed into the beautiful flower, is told in Ovid's Metamorphoses. Narcissus was a paragon of beauty, and is so spoken of in Shakes. Antony and Cleopatra, II. v. 96 ; Rape of Lucrece, 265; Milton's Comus, 237. Narcissus is said to be from vapkáw, to become numb, as the odor of the flower produced torpidity. Plutarch says that “those who are numbed with death should very fittingly be crowned with a benumbing flower."
In the light of the foregoing explanations, the student will be able to judge of the accuracy and fairness of Ruskin's criticism of this passage (lines 142 - 150). After distinguishing between “fancy' and `imagination,' by saying that “fancy sees the outside, and is able to give a portrait of the outside, clear, brilliant, and full of detail"; that “the imagination sees the heart and inner nature, and makes them felt, but is often obscure, mysterious, and interrupted, in its giving of outer detail,” Ruskin proceeds to illustrate.
To strew the laureate hearse where Lycid lies.
“ Compare,” he says, “Milton's flowers in Lycidas with Perdita's. In Milton it happens, I think, generally, and in the case before us most certainly, that the imagination is mixed and broken with fancy, and so the strength of the imagery is part of iron and part of clay :
* Bring the rathe primrose that forsaken dies, (Imagination.)
And every flower that sad embroidery wears.' (Mixed.) ." Then hear Perdita : 'O Proserpina,' etc. (See the quotation below from Winter's Tale.]
“Observe how the imagination in these last lines [Perdita's) goes into the very inmost soul of every flower, after having touched them all at first with that heavenly timidness, the shadow of Proserpine's, and gilded them with celestial gathering ; and never stops on their spots, or their bodily shape, while Milton sticks in the stains upon them, and puts us off with that unhappy freak of jet in the very flower that without this bit of paper-staining would have been the most precious to us of all. There is pansies, that's for thoughts.'" Ruskin's Modern Painters, Part III. Vol. II. chap. iii. pp. 164, 165 (New York, Wiley & Son, 1871). Is the great art-critic just in his comparison of the consciously immature pastoral poet of twenty-eight or twentynine with the veteran dramatist of forty-seven? It may aid in the decision of this question, if we examine the whole flower passage, of which Ruskin gives the ten lines referred to above, beginning ‘O Proserpina.' The scene is at a sheep-shearing, and Perdita is . mistress o' the feast.'
“ Reverend sir,