Preoccupation with the two-handed engine in Lycidas has obscured a question raised by the lines which follow: Why is the “dread voice” which has just uttered the denunciation of the clergy said to shrink the streams? Examination of the biblical context of the lines indicates that the shrinking of the streams may be related to the drying up of the Red Sea at the Exodus; this possibility in turn reinforces the suggestion made some years ago that the speaker described as “the Pilot of the Galilean lake” is not necessarily St. Peter. Exegetical tradition, literary precedents, and Milton's other works support the theory that the figure is a composite of Moses, Peter, and Christ. Such an interpretation is in harmony with the allusive ambivalence so markedly present elsewhere in Lycidas. Moreover, the biblical overtones of the dread voice help to define the structure of the poem as a progression from pagan consolation through the partial enlightenment given by the Old Law to the final revelation of the New, a movement reflected in the echoes throughout the poem of its opening phrase, “yet once more."

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.