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in all his dealings with nonconforming Protestants, he behaved with conspicuous leniency towards Roman Catholics, and as this leniency was obviously due, not to liberality of opinion or the spirit of tolerance (of which he knew nothing), but to personal preferences, it boded ill for the work of the Reformation. The immense development in the mere externals of public worship which took place under his rule was regarded by the Puritans, to whom all ceremonial formalism was hateful, as a sure sign of his sympathy with the anti-Protestant tendencies which were at work in the land ; even moderate men began to suspect that it was his ultimate design to bring the Church of England as near as possible to the Church of Rome, perhaps even to unite it to the Church of Rome ; and the known bias of the Court, taken in conjunction with his policy of relentless bigotry, spread a feeling of panic among the masses of the people. By 1637, indeed, Laud had succeeded in alienating the best thought of England, and in fanning into a mighty flame the spirit of antagonism which had been rising rapidly in the Puritan party ever since his appointment to the Archbishopric of Canterbury four years before. Such was the state of things in the English religious world when Milton wrote his "Lycidas"; and it was because he so keenly realised the peril of the hour, because his soul was filled with such indignation and contempt for everything that Laud and his followers stood for and were seeking to achieve, that he poured out his passion in the burning lines in which, for the first time, he openly proclaimed his sympathy with the Puritan cause. Whatever, therefore, may be said about the artistic aspects of the passage in question, its autobiographical interest is unmistakable.
LYCIDAS: 1 A MONODY
[In this Monody the Author bewails a learned friend, unfortunately drowned in his passage from Chester on the Irish Seas, 1637. And by occasion, foretells the ruin of our corrupted clergy, then in their highth.]
Yet once more, O ye Laurels, and once more
Begin, then, Sisters of the Sacred Well 3 That from beneath the Seat of Jove doth spring ; Begin, and somewhat loudly sweep the string. Hence with denial vain, and coy excuse : So may some gentle Muse With lucky words favour my destined urn; 1 Lycidas is the name of a shepherd in Virgil's ninth Eclogue. • This explanatory note was added by Milton in the first edition of his collected poems, published in 1645. * The fountain of the Muses on Mount Helicon.
And, as he passes, turn,
For we were nursed upon the self-same hill,
But, oh, the heavy change, now thou art gone,
Where were ye, Nymphs, when the remorseless deep Closed o'er the head of your loved Lycidas ? For neither were ye playing on the steep, * One of the shepherds in Virgil's Eclogues. • "Perhaps Penmaenmawr, overhanging the sea opposite Angle sea" (Keightloy).
Where your old bards, the famous Druids, lie,
Alas! What boots it with incessant care
• The River Dee.
O fountain Arethuse, and thou honoured flood, Smooth-sliding Mincius,crowned with vocal reeds. That strain I heard was of a higher mood : But now my oat proceeds,
Next Camus, rev'rend sire, went footing slow,
Last came, and last did go,
Swain, · A fountain near Syracuse, the native place of the pastoral poet Theocritus.
: A river in Northern Italy, near the birthplace of Virgil.
..God of the river Cam, and the personification of Cambridge University.
6 St. Peter. See Matt. xvi. 19.