Critical Analysis of John Milton's Poem "Lycidas"
In this paper, I will be critically analyzing Portrait of the Poet as Landscape by A.M. Klein. This poem in general discusses about finding the identity of the poet and his art. The poet states “Lycidas” which is a poem created by John Milton and Lycidas was a person who was perceived as dead, but was in fact not dead. In the first stanza of Portrait of the Poet as Landscape it includes multiple times where different people talk about how they believe the poet is dead. Some examples would be, “The radio broadcast lets his passing pass” and “And with the police, no record.” It shows that no one missed him enough to report him. It is hard to tell if the poet is struggling between life and death. The poet is struggling with life and I think it shows that the poet wants someone to look for him or try and find him to portray that someone does care for him. The poem gives us many reasons to believe the poet is loss in his own head because the poet tells us many ways that he could be found or reasons that he could have went missing. These ways are very extreme, they include, “found some place in a narrow closet, like the corpse in a detective story.” It tells me that he is in the thought of being alive or dying because, Klein is discussing that the poet could just be missing because of being amnesiac, mad, or in retired disgrace, or he could just be lost in love. In the poem, it states, “he has disappeared; he simply does not count.” This shows that the poet has been pushed away from society, that nobody cares about him. He has been turned from “an eminent in a shouting mob to somebody’s sigh.” Klein goes on to say that he is just a statistic on a government table. I believe the poet was a very religious and intelligent person, because it states, “O, he unrolled our culture from his scroll.” This shows he interpreted the world, but people just don’t show any sympathy towards him. Klein states the poet as incognito, lost, and lacunal. Lacunal refers to lacuna which means a vault consisting of recessed panels. I think this means that the poet feels locked up and that his time has ended and that no one is willing to put forth the effort to find out what happen to him.
In section II of the poem, it tells me that the poet isn’t dead, but that he is being ignored. Klein states, “but only ignored – like the mirroring lenses forgotten on a brow that shine with the guilt of their unnoticed world.” This is very strong way to open a new part of this poem. When Klein states this, I believe he is trying to tell us that people are ignoring his poetry when poetry is a reflection of them. They are too full of guilt to understand how important poetry is to society. He lives among his neighbors which they are okay with, but they don’t see his true talent. The poet’s neighbors think of him as eccentric, one that can forgive and forego. The poet goes through difficult parts of his life, he sees himself as a freak or as Klein states “his mother’s miscarriage, his great-grandfather’s ghost.” The poet is struggling to understand what the meaning of life is if all the people around him don’t even realize his existence. The third stanza is very confusing in my opinion. I believe he has a personal connection with his poetry. There are many parts of the text that tell me that he sees his poetry as a human and shows that he loves it very much. “The beautiful face of the noun, and all those shaped and warm auxiliaries! A first love it was, the recognition of his own.” The poet’s love for his poetry changed him and has made him feel less worthless than he is perceived. He portrays himself as character with a role as if he was in a movie or play. Klein states the poet as a convict on parole.
In section III, the poet is alone, but not completely alone. People have similar stories like him that feel just as lonely as him and are angry that no one understands them. Klein states, “They know neither up nor down, mistakes the part for the whole, curl themselves in a comma, talk technics, make a colon for their eyes. They distort.” The poets that can relate to the main protagonist in this poem don’t have common sense which gives people a reason to believe that they don’t have to care for them or their poetry. The poet is confused as to why people are still portraying him as lost. The poet has a hard time recognizing himself because he is too caught up in his own work that he seems to lose his grasp of reality and the real world. Most of section III is the poet just saying poetic nonsense which leads me to believe that he is very frustrated and too caught up in his poetry.
In section IV, he believes that something has occurred, like a nightmare, and that he finds himself in a different place than where he usually is. Klein states “He thinks an impostor, having studied his personal biography, his gestures, his moods, now has come forward to pose in the shivering vacuums his absence leaves.” He believes that an impostor studied his whole life and everything about him has come forward to steal his identity and pose as him. This goes to show that the poet is losing his mind. He doesn’t have any communication skills to talk to other people other than his work. I think the poet is trying to portray that everyone has a role or task to complete in society and that his role has been replaced by an impostor that will do a better job than him. This “impostor” so to speak has stolen everything he owns or lives with including his wife and his children. These other poets that are similar to the main protagonist are going through the similar situation. I get confused when Klein discusses about the local tycoon. I believe Klein is trying to say that the local tycoon is in fact this impostor, who is stealing his identity for the fun of it. The poet shows that this impostor rides wherever he wants to ride.
Section V, Klein discusses fame. I think Klein wrote section V about fame to state what the poet wants. The poet wants to be known, and not feel like a worthless outsider. Klein states many times in the poem “to be.” Klein uses “to be” so many times in this section because it is wish that the poet wants to come true. The poet wants to be talked about and to be known by society. Klein states, “to walk upon roofs and window-sills and defy the gape of gravity.” This is a very strong statement by Klein because it tells us the poet is on a mission that is impossible which is defy gravity. I don’t think Klein wanted us to take this meaning as to literally defy gravity, but to have the poet mean something to worth which may seem like defying gravity to the poet because the poet believes no one wants to see him succeed. I can see the poet as being depressed and struggling with life because he believes that not only has someone taken over his life, but that no one would care if he went missing, or if he died. Nobody supports the poet which takes a toll on the poet which is why he perceives his art as a lover.
Section VI discusses why he seeks illusions. As the poem winds down, I think the poet has finally reached peace for himself and his poetry. He realized that he doesn’t need everyone to care for him. Klein states, “the nth Adam taking a green inventory in world but scarcely uttered, naming, praising, the flowering fiats in the meadow, the syllabled fur, stars aspirate, the pollen whose sweet collision sounds eternally.” Klein’s meaning behind this is the poet has a new meaning of life, rather than looking for something physically, he is looking for something spiritual that will help him become a better human being. People in society are more concerned about receiving physically items that they don’t understand the importance of gifts that aren’t physical. The poet is no longer confused with the understanding of life. Klein states, “air to his lungs, and pressured blood to his heart, they are pulsated and breathed, until they map, no the world’s, but his own body’s chart.” This shows that the poet doesn’t care about the fame anymore and doesn’t want to be known as someone who changed the world. I think it means that the poet is going to be true to himself, enjoy life, and better his well-being. The poet understands his talents if others don’t. The poet created a new world from the previous time of life he had before where he wanted to see people succeed and that he would be watching from a place where no one could see him. I think this is what Klein means because he states, “a halo of his anonymity, and lives alone, and in his secret shines like phosphorus. At the bottom of the sea.”
The poem can be used for real life. Most people are doing things that would make them seem popular or cool and don’t care for the well-being of themselves. Society has a way of making someone feel like they aren’t needed when in fact, everyone does have a role in this world. The poet realized that and was true to himself and didn’t care about other people’s thoughts or feelings which is something that I think we can all take from this poem. Klein has done a very good way of portraying that the poet was struggling with himself and just wanted to be known hoping it would make everything better. It wasn’t until the end where the poet realized that being known wasn’t what made him happy. It was understanding that he doesn’t need people’s approval to succeed and be happy. The creation of the new world that the poet has provided gives us a place where we don’t feel lost and a place that we feel at home to.
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