Comus and Lycidas

Comus and Lycidas

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Comus and Lycidas are two poems that, when viewed together, one can find many similarities in. Milton uses much of the same imagery in both poems to convey the deaths and afterlives of the characters Sabrina and Lycidas. Since they both have so many similarities, the reading of Lycidas can help one to fully understand the Sabrina episode in Comus.

One of the main similarities that can be found in both poems is the use of a flower that grants immortality. When Sabrina drowns in the river and is brought to the sea god, she is bathed "In nectar'd leaves strew'd with Asphodil" (Comus 838). The Asphodil is the flower of Hades and the dead. The immortality bringing flower is also used when Milton calls to Nature to shower his friends' watery grave with flowers, "Bid Amaranthus all his beauties shed" (Lycidas 149). The Asphodil is the flower of Hades and the dead and the Amaranthus is a flower whose color never fades. He is using this imagery to convey that both Sabrina and Lycidas are going to be granted eternal life with God.

Another similarity found in the poems is that both Sabrina and Lycidas become water nymphs who protect the innocent when they die. "For maid'nhood she loves, and will be swift/To aid a virgin, such as her self" (855-56). Sabrina doesn't want other maidens to fall victim to the horrors the river can hold. In Lycidas, he becomes a sea nymph to protect those sailors that cross the Irish Sea. "Henceforth thou art the Genius of the shoar/...and shalt be good/To al that wander in that perilous flood" (183-185).

The selections from Comus and Lycidas also share the use of Classical elements. After Sabrina drowns in the river, the water Nymphs "[bring] her strait to aged Nereus hall" (835). Nereus is the god of the Mediterranean Sea where he, like Sabrina and Lycidas, saves travelers on the water from destruction. Line 123-33 of Lycidas, "Return Alphéus, the dread voice is past/That shrunk thy streams..." is a direct call to the Classics. The "Dread Voice" is that of Saint Peter, who had been speaking in the previous lines. The Saint had left and the Classical elements can now return and lament poor Lycidas.

Since both poems share many qualities, the passages in Lycidas are very helpful in understanding the episode with Sabrina in Comus.

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The main theme for each is rebirth by water, which symbolizes the Sacrament of Baptism. In Lycidas, Milton compares his death to the setting sun, "Sunk though he be beneath the watry floar/So sinks the day star in the ocean bed" (167-168). Like the sun which dies each night by sinking into the water only to be reborn each morning, Lycidas will experience this rebirth as well. In the Sabrina episode, not only is she granted new life after drowning, she also saves The Lady by using the ritual act of Baptism. "Thus I sprinkle on thy breast/...Thrice upon thy fingers tip/Thrice upon thy rubied lips" (911,914-15). She anoints The Lady with her holy water and frees her from the spell that had enchanted her.

Milton wrote Lycidas and Comus at different points in his life and for very different reasons. Despite that fact, they both include much of the same symbolism and religious theories. In these two poems he shares his thoughts on the Sacrament of Baptism and powers of spiritual rebirth. After reading these poems one can say that, to Milton, the act of Baptism will cleanse you in the eyes of the Lord and allow you to start a new life with Him.

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