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Word Count: 1,537
The speaker of Miltons Lycidas has been the subject of much debate--debate concerning his identity his principal topic and his attitude toward that topic Thus far the critical conversation has been uninformed by current linguistic theory which has the potential to further complicate a poem that many think requires no further complication Why do it then On the one hand the poems many inconsistencies are obvious and frequently discussed on the other as Victoria Silver asserts in Lycidas and the Grammar of Revelation we all--even Stanley Fish--resist them attempting to make sense of and thus erase the incoherence Basing her claims on reformed theology Silver argues convincingly that Milton planned the incoherence of Lycidas deliberately emphasizing the gap that always exists between semblance and truth sign and meaning and that he did so because it is in this gap that God operates Besides Silver I know of two others who accept the unreconcilable cont radictions of Lycidas Elizabeth Hanson who argues that the poem denies its own ecstatically proclaimed end to the pain and anxiety which propel it 70 and Russell Fraser who reads the poem as a conflict between two poets in which the last two lines are only formally conclusive and suggest a different poet still at odds with his material 118 With its contradictions firmly grounded in Miltons theology and intuitive psychology of grief it is not surprising that the poem resists our resistance our attempts to close the gap Linguistic analysis confirms the unreconcilable contradictions and ambiguities of Lycidas particularly those of the poems multiple speakers and subjects Multiple voices and subjects coexist within the first 185 lines as Paul Alpers writes the speaker of the poem possesses unusual openness and flexibility as he enacts the play between monody and dialogue--sometimes taking heard voices into his own and sometimes producing voices attributed to others 481 In addition to his interplay with other speakers such as
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