Comparing John Milton’s Lycidas and Sonnet 7
In the journey of life Man will often question his or her position in the universe. Questioning ones worth and purpose in the universe will harbor the attention of Man until the end of time. The antidote for the majority of the world comes in maintaining a religion. In Sonnet 7 and Lycidas, John Milton takes the reader on the journey Man takes in fulfilling Gods will. In the poems Milton examines the importance of being readily prepared for Gods will, the willingness to truly fulfill Gods will, and the resolution he comes to with his own life as well as Edward Kings in terms of Gods will.
Miltons personal journey in fulfilling Gods will is essential to Milton. He believes his daily activities are in preparation for a greater purpose. In believing in such discipline it becomes apparent to Milton that he must be readily prepared for Gods plan for his life. Milton expresses the need for spiritual maturity repeatedly in Sonnet 7 and in Lycidas. In Sonnet 7 Milton expresses anxiety in his own life. In line 6 and 7 Milton wrote:
That I to manhood am arrivd so near,
And inward ripenes doth much less appear.
It is relevant to notice that Milton is having a time of reflection in writing such words. He is questioning his own being and asking himself if he is making the necessary decisions in life to lead to spiritual maturity.
Milton examines the same idea in the pastoral elegy that he writes for Edward King. In contrast to the Sonnet, which is about Milton, Lycidas explores what happens when ones life ends abruptly. In line 3 of Lycidas Milton wrote:
Shatter your leaves before your mellowing year.
Miltons concern with Kings death displays a concern of dieing before possibly reaching spiritual maturity. Because both Milton and King went to school to be a priest, and King was also a poet, the questioning of Kings death mirrors a concern for his own life. The quote mirrors Sonnet 7 in that it raises the same question: what would happen if death came to Milton at the time in which he wrote Lycidas? Milton questions his own life in questioning what Gods judgment would be on his own life if his death came in his youth.
Milton displays concerns not only with the idea of being spiritually mature, but also a willingness to do Gods will in Gods timing. Knowing Gods direction for his life is important, but he also wants to be sure hes living on Gods clock, and not his own. Milton has completed years of education, and feels the pressure to succeed in life. This idea is also a time of reflection for Milton in that he must ask himself what success really means. He asks the question: does success mean becoming a priest, or does God have other plans for me? Milton wrote in lines 1 and 2:
How soon hath Time the suttle theef of youth,
Stoln on his wing my three and twentieth yeer!
The underlying question is merely about time. No one truly knows when their life will end, and the question that remains is if one knew when he or she were to die, would he or she still make the same decisions? The idea of time is apparent in Lycidas as well when Milton wrote:
For Lycidas is dead, dead ere his prime
Young Lycidas, and hath not left his peer. Lines 9 and 10
And Comes the blind Fury with th abhoored shears
And slits the thin- spun life. Lines 75 and 76
Milton questions whether or not King had fulfilled his purpose for God even though his life ended in youth. Milton offers the answer to this question later in his resolution of the poem, however it remains imperative to examine the question not just in terms of King, but also universally.
Although it seems Milton expresses anxieties in his tribulations of youthful doubt, he does offer resolutions in both poems. In Sonnet 7 Milton comes to the conclusion that as long as hes doing his part in finding spiritual maturity, and staying open to Gods will, then he will be ready to do Gods will. In the last lines he wrote:
Toward which Time leads me, and the will of Heavn;
All is, if I have grace to use it so,
As ever in my great task Masters eye.
Milton realizes that God has a plan, and part of fulfilling it is being patient for Gods timing.
Milton also comes to a resolution with King. Although Kings life ended unexpectedly and before he could become a priest, Milton wrote about Kings rewards in heaven.
Now Lycidas the Shepards weep no more,
Hence forth thou art the Genius of the shore,
In thy large recompense, and shalt be good
To all that wanderin that perilous flood. Lines 182-185
Although King didnt become a priest, he lived a life in search of Gods will, and thus will be rewarded in heaven.
Although Milton, like many, questions his own life, the ultimate conclusion he comes to is that the answer lies in eternity. Milton understands there is a purpose for his life and that he has been given spiritual gifts from God that he must use for Gods will. Although he may doubt himself from time to time, or he may question his success in fulfilling Gods will, he also recognizes the gift God has given him in salvation. In the end Milton believes that Gods plan will reveal itself, and truth will win, in his own life and in the world around him.
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