"Ay me": Selfishness and Empathy in "Lycidas"
Jean E. Graham
The College of New Jersey

Graham, Jean E. "'Ay me': Selfishness and Empathy in 'Lycidas'." Early Modern Literary Studies 2.3 (1996): 3.1-21 <URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/02-3/grahmilt.html>.

  1. The speaker of Milton's "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 poem's 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 contradictions 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 Milton's theology and intuitive psychology of grief, it is not surprising that the poem resists our resistance, our attempts to close the gap.

  2. Linguistic analysis confirms the unreconcilable contradictions and ambiguities of "Lycidas," particularly those of the poem's 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 "enact[s] . . . 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 Phobus, Chamus, and "the Pilot of the Galilean lake," the swain himself possesses at least two distinct voices: one commenting, reflecting, on the other. Furthermore, the Pilot's digression also contains a voice of commentary, which is similar but not identical to the swain's reflective voice. The last eight lines introduce an impersonal, third-person voice, which differs from all previous voices, and further complicates the poem. As Catherine Belsey queries, "Where now is the (authorized) voice of Lycidas?" (33).

  3. Not only is "Lycidas" what Walter Schindler calls "a polyphony of voices," but a polyphony of subjects as well (37; cf. Judge 6). Although the final eight lines demonstrate a single focus on the swain, the first 185 lines concern multiple inter-related topics, including the swain, Lycidas, poetry, learning, and spiritual matters. Moreover, while some critics would agree with John Reesing that "Lycidas, whatever its universal implications may ultimately be, is in the first instance a poem about Lycidas," the majority have taken the subject of the poem as Milton himself, whether they judge this a good or an evil (21). Christopher Hill, for instance, argues that "Lycidas is ostensibly a poem about the tragedy of youthful death" but is really a means for Milton "to ask how important worldly success is, and to assess his own life in the light of King's death" (49- 50). Other proposed subjects of the poem include grief; the community of shepherds and Milton's "desire for companionship"; Christ; the church; death and rebirth; forgiveness; baptism; music; youth; homoerotic love transcended by God's eternal love; the tutor as surrogate father; and the poetical succession in which the mantle passes from Lycidas to the "mature consciousness" of the last lines (Bourdette; Davies 83; Frye 121; McLoone 79; Baier; Moore; Lieb; Watterson 50; Martz 547). I would group the possible topics of "Lycidas" into three categories: the speakers, the deceased, and the nonhuman. Many of the last are implied; they transcend the poem's syntax and are thus outside the scope of this discussion.

  4. "Modern criticism has rejected the view that the poem's form is incidental to its meaning; the meaning of Lycidas is thought to reside in its elected form" (Johnson 69). Barbara Johnson thus summarized critical thought of the 1970's to introduce her article on the pastoral and grief, but her words are equally applicable to another aspect of the poem's "elected form": its grammar. Two recent linguistic theories concerning sentence structure affirm that the speaker and subject of "Lycidas" are deliberately multiple. One of these theories has been previously used in a discussion of literature (Tolliver's analysis, using Kuno's empathy theory, of "La novia fiel" by Pardo Bazan); otherwise, both have remained until now in the realms of speech and expository prose.

  5. According to Susumo Kuno, syntax reveals the speaker's attitudes toward others. In Functional Syntax: Anaphora, Discourse, and Empathy, Kuno defines "empathy" as "the speaker's identification, which may vary in degree, with a person/thing that participates in the event or state that he [/she] describes in a sentence," or as "a camera angle on x rather than y" (206). Kuno assumes that the sentence in its natural state is egocentric--that is, in the case of "Lycidas," that the uncouth Swain will empathize more with himself than with Lycidas. The speaker may still choose to limit the self-empathy; in literature, the writer makes this choice on behalf of the speaker. Language, argues Kuno, contains mechanisms which enable the speaker to limit or disguise self-empathy, mechanisms such as passivization: "Mistakes were made," rather than "I made mistakes." Similarly, the speaker may alter his or her syntactic bias toward others: consider the difference in empathy between "John hit Bill" and "Bill was hit by John." In the former, any bias is in John's favor, while the speaker of the latter probably sides with Bill. Another such mechanism is seen where John and Bill are brothers, and the speaker refers to Bill not by name but as "John's brother"; this last term "can be used to refer to Bill only when the speaker has placed himself closer to John than to his brother; the term . . . does not give Bill an independent characterization, but a characterization that is dependent upon John" (204). Kuno's rule for the latter method of altering empathy is the Descriptor Empathy Hierarchy, while passivization falls under his Surface Structure Empathy Hierarchy (207).

  6. Empathy is further complicated by multiple topics within a single sentence. The "empathy relationships" within a sentence must be logically compatible, as stated in Kuno's Ban on Conflicting Empathy Foci; thus "John's brother was hit by him" sounds odd because "John's brother" declares the primary focus to be John, while the passive voice asserts a bias toward Bill (206-7). On the other hand, a grammatical sentence may contain uninterpretable empathy relationships. For instance, in "John and his brother talked to Mary about her sister," the speaker empathizes with John more than his brother and with Mary more than her sister, but gives no clues about the four other empathy relationships: between John and Mary, John and Mary's sister, John's brother and Mary, John's brother and Mary's sister (207-8). Further, a sentence may contain a hierarchy of empathy relationships, as in "John talked to his wife about her sister," where the speaker empathizes most with John and least with John's wife's sister (208). Finally, empathy may differ from sentence to sentence (Kuno's Transitivity of Empathy Relationships rule), so a discourse must be analyzed one sentence at a time (207).

  7. Kuno posits several other grammatical rules governing empathy, including the Syntactic Prominence Principle, which states that the noun representing the person or thing receiving empathy tends to be found in a prominent position in the sentence. For instance, the speaker of the following sentence reveals a primary interest in Susan's presence when he or she makes "Susan" the left-most noun in the coordinate structure: "I wonder if Susan and Carol are coming to the meeting this afternoon." When the speaker includes himself or herself in the coordinate structure, however, the Modesty Principle dictates "Jill and I just can't agree on the first sentence of our business plan" rather than "I and Jill." Kuno argues that the latter version is more natural, while the former is "artificial," "taught repeatedly at the grade school level" (232- 33). Finally, Kuno's rule of Semantic Case Hierarchy states that "other things being equal, the more agentive or experiencer- like a role an NP [noun phrase] plays vis-a-vis the action/state represented in the sentence, the easier it is for the speaker to empathize with its referent" (238). According to this rule, the speaker of the sentence "Melissa showed Mary a picture of little William" expresses the most empathy with Melissa, the agent of the action as well as the noun in the most prominent position. Mary receives secondary empathy: she is not active, as she would be in "Mary looked at the picture of little William," but she is syntactically and experientially ahead of the absent William.

  8. Although Kuno developed these rules using spoken English and Japanese, his theory is applicable to written discourse as well, with some modifications. Kuno's assumption of the natural egocentricity of the sentence will apply not to the author but to the narrator; as Kuno notes in passing, "[t]he total identification of the speaker with John or Bill . . . seldom occurs in conversations, but it occurs very often in narratives" (205-6). Furthermore, the Humanness Hierarchy (that the speaker empathizes more with the human than the nonhuman, and the animate rather than the inanimate) will not apply if the discourse employs personification. Finally, Kuno formulated his Ban on Conflicting Empathy Foci for spoken language rather than for Milton's compound sentences, each portion of which I have for the purposes of analysis treated as a single sentence.

  9. The empathy at the level of the individual sentences of "Lycidas" is shifting, ambiguous, multiplicitous. For instance, the empathy of the first lines is with the laurels and myrtles, personified through apostrophe and made syntactically prominent by their representation as the initial nouns in the sentence: "Yet once more, O ye laurels, and once more, / Ye myrtles brown, with ivy never-sere." The third line retains the empathy with these plants, but adds the speaker's self-empathy: "I come to pluck your berries harsh and crude." Here the speaker is the agent, but in the second sentence, "[b]itter constraint, and sad occasion deare" act upon him, "compell" him, suggesting personification. The speaker receives a lesser degree of empathy, as do the laurels and myrtles acted upon by the speaker, but still personified and addressed in "your season due": "Bitter constraint, and sad occasion deare / Compells me to disturb your season due." The third sentence introduces the speaker's empathy with Lycidas: "For Lycidas is dead, dead ere his prime, / Young Lycidas, and hath not left his peere." Lycidas' name is the first noun in the sentence and the subject, and "peere" receives less empathy because it is dependent upon Lycidas. Furthermore, according to the swain, the peer does not exist, leaving Lycidas the sole "real" person of the sentence. The focus on Lycidas continues in the three succeeding sentences: "Who would not sing for Lycidas? he knew / Himself to sing, and build the lofty rhyme" and "He must not flote upon his watry biere / Unwept." In the interrogative, the subject "who" is (not) acting, and Lycidas is the recipient of the (in)action, but the sense is that this "who" who will not sing does not exist anyway (like "his peere"); thus it would be difficult to see "who" as the agent or as the recipient of much empathy. In this sentence, Lycidas receives the most empathy, as he does in the following two sentences, where he is the subject and the agent. He is also the only animate being explicit in the sentences, since the hypothetical "who," now not weeping rather than not singing, is merely implied (by "[u]nwept"). The nonexistent unmourning shepherd implies the other shepherds, including the speaker, who are indeed grieving. When the mourning speaker makes the hypothetical non-mourner implicit, he himself becomes merely an implication of an implication, his personality modestly subsumed in the centrality of Lycidas.

  10. Thus in one fourteen-line verse paragraph, the speaker of "Lycidas" has moved from empathy with personified laurels and myrtles to self-empathy to a strong and self-negating assertion of empathy with Lycidas. However, in the fifteenth line the empathy shifts once more, this time to the Muses, with whom the speaker demonstrates empathy through word order and agency: "Begin then, Sisters of the sacred well / That from beneath the seat of Jove doth spring; / Begin, and somewhat loudly sweep the string." The Muses subsequently become a singular, male poet, although still the recipient of the strongest empathy:
  11. So may some gentle Muse
    With lucky words favour my destin'd urn
    And as he passes, turn
    And bid fair peace be to my sable shroud. (ll. 19-22)

    The "gentle Muse" is the agent of the proposed actions (favoring, passing, turning, bidding) and the subject of the sentence, but some empathy goes to the speaker as the recipient of these future honors. Lycidas has been notably missing from these lines, but now the speaker demonstrates empathy with "we," thereby joining the interests of "he" with those of "I." Thus we read "For we were nurst upon the self-same hill" (l. 23) rather than "I was nurst upon the same hill as Lycidas." The following sentences continue to focus on "we," as in "we drove a-field" (l. 27) and "our song" (l. 36). As Susan Snyder notes, Lycidas and the swain "are not really differentiated one from the other" (324)--at least not in this section of the poem.

  12. The speaker's empathy continues to shift throughout the first 185 lines of "Lycidas," touching on the Angel and the personified Amaranthus, Jove and Neptune, Orpheus and his mother (yet another Muse). Furthermore, other voices incorporated into the swain's "monologue" exhibit the same multiplicity of focus. Phebus begins by speaking of Fame ("Fame is no plant that growes on mortall soil," l. 78), and switches to Jove as the source of fame, with a reference to the swain his speech addresses: "all- judging Jove: / As he pronounces lastly on each deed, / Of so much fame in heav'n expect thy meed" (ll. 82-84). Chamus pronounces a single line, as complex in empathy as it is succinct: "Ah! who hath reft . . . my dearest pledge?" (l. 107). His primary empathy appears to lie with the unknown "who" responsible for Lycidas' death, while "my dearest" expresses not only affection but Lycidas' dependence on Chamus, giving secondary empathy to Chamus himself. After the swain, Phebus, and Chamus, the Pilot's infamous "digression" is more explicable: if his primary focus is not Lycidas, he is not alone. In fact, in his only sentence mentioning Lycidas, he is more concerned with himself, as was Chamus: "How well could I have spar'd for thee, young swain" (l. 113).

  13. Sometimes the syntactic empathy is with an ambiguous term, further complicating the empathetic situation. For instance, in "Such, Lycidas, thy losse to shepherds eare" (l. 48), if "shepherd" is singular it must, logically, refer either to the swain or to a generic shepherd, but which? Furthermore, the previous use of "shepherd" was plural and referred to the entire company: "Thee shepherds, thee the woods, and desert caves / With wild thyme and the gadding Vine oregrown, / And all their echoes mourn" (ll. 39-41). Perhaps "shepherds eare" is not "shepherd's" but "shepherds'," giving the entire community of shepherds a joint ear as all grieve as one for Lycidas. Another source of confusion is "Fame is the spurre that the clear spirit doth raise" (l. 69). Not only is the identity of "the clear spirit" unclear--does it refer to the swain, to Lycidas, neither, or both?--but the sentence is torn between empathy for the (presumably human) spirit and "Fame," which is the first noun but not human unless it is personified, which is also unclear. Nor is the agent discernible from the syntax: who or what is doing the raising? The frequency of ambiguous structures and of shifts in empathy suggests that the swain is thus expressing his own confusion and conflicting emotions, and either his sense that other mourners are affected in a similarly complex manner or his grief-distracted unconsciousness of their apparent selfishness.

  14. Thus far I have considered the basic grammar; the second linguistic theory concerns paragrammatic structures--i.e., structures outside the basic sentence, such as this one. They are "words, phrases, or clauses grammatical in their own right . . . but not integral to the grammar of the basic sentence" (Palacas 515). These structures are distinguished by their disconnectedness from the basic sentence--discontinuity in terms of phonetics, punctuation, syntax, and semantics. Drawing on examples from expository prose, Arthur Palacas argues in his "Parentheticals and Personal Voice" that paragrammatic structures (which include but are not limited to parentheticals) indicate the writer's more "private" thoughts, "second-order thoughts about, or evaluations of, other presented meanings" (509). For instance, in "The paper is marred by generality, I think, but for me it's saved, maybe just saved, by voice," William Coles evaluates his basic assertion, "The paper is marred by generality, but it's saved by voice," by adding the paragrammatical structures "I think," "for me," and "maybe just saved" (Coles 264, qtd. Palacas 511) These structures are separated from the basic sentence by commas (in the first and third instances); by intonation if read aloud (for example, a lowered intonation for "I think" and a raised in "for me"); by a "distinctively loose structural connection in the sentence, verging on the absence of any structural connection" (514); and by a similarly loose connection semantically: the first two comments express conscious subjectivity, while the third hedges, limiting the meaning of the basic sentence. Each of the three paragrammaticals represents "a recognizably self-editing function, wherein the author has self-consciously paused to evaluate what he has just expressed and offers a personal comment on it--an edit" which may sometimes be "perceived as an afterthought" (512). Alternatively, the author has used this syntactic strategy to deliberately project the appearance of self-editing, of reflecting on the basic sentence (515). In either case, Palacas asserts, "[b]y its nature, the reflective mentality is the more self-conscious and is the key to voice" (509-10).

  15. The very presence of paragrammaticals in "Lycidas" creates an additional voice, an additional discontinuity in the text. Moreover, the paragrammatic structures comment in significant ways on the themes of the basic text; they tell us about the speaker and his concerns. In effect, they create a personality for the uncouth swain. While Palacas assumes that the speaker and the author are the same--"a reflective voice, the voice of a reflecting self, the author, reflecting on what he is saying" (512)--this assumption would clearly be inappropriate for more sophisticated writers, where paragrammatical structures may represent the voice of a narrator or character rather than the author. At the same time, Milton's paragrammaticals in the poem add the appearance of thought, feeling, subjectivity, so that the syntax encourages us to believe we are reading the reflections of a real person, encourages us to confuse author and speaker(s).

  16. One of the concerns in the paragrammatic structures of "Lycidas" is Lycidas. In line 38, for instance, the swain repeats "now thou art gone," emphasizing Lycidas ("thou") and the loss ("gone"). More ambiguous is "Ah me" (l. 56; cf. "Ay me," l. 154): while an expression of grief, the pronoun focusses our attention on the feelings of the speaker, on "me" rather than "you" or "him." Furthermore, two successive paragrammatic structures suggest that the narrator is distressed by the youth of the victim: "dead ere his prime" and "Young Lycidas," in "For Lycidas is dead, dead ere his prime, / (Young Lycidas!) and hath not left his peere" (ll. 8-9). The comments on youth seem applicable to the speaker as well as Lycidas, for the two swains are peers, "nurst upon the self-same hill." The nouns point to Lycidas, but when one young man asks how another young man can die, we suspect him to be conscious of his own mortality. Thus these paragrammatic structures reinforce the blurring between Lycidas and the uncouth swain already seen in the basic grammar.

  17. A more serious instance of blurring occurs in the Pilot's speech concerning corruption among the shepherds. Although introduced by the swain with various paragrammaticals--"(reverend sire)," "(quoth he)," and "(The golden opes, the iron shuts amain)"--the Pilot's speech contains only one paragrammatical, "young swain," in: "How well could I have spar'd for thee, young swain, / Enough of such as for their bellies sake, / Creep and intrude and climbe into the fold?" (ll. 109, 113-15). Since "young swain" echoes the uncouth swain's "young Lycidas," the shared concern with youthful mortality seems to make the digression more cohesive with the main text. But the speaker is the Pilot rather than the uncouth swain, so this "young" is the paternalism of an authority figure, not the self-identification of a peer. Furthermore, the Pilot's rewriting of "young Lycidas" as "young swain" brings ambiguity to the speech, since the poem contains two swains. So far, the Pilot is deprived only of Lycidas, but the unnamed swain is equally at risk. Rather than cohesion, the Pilot's paragrammar adds to the confusion of "Lycidas."

  18. The impression left by both basic grammar and paragrammar is that the swain's sympathies are divided. He is simultaneously mourning for Lycidas and Lycidas' lost talent, and demonstrating an uncomfortable awareness that his own promise is mortal, vulnerable, and as yet unfulfilled. Linguistic analysis bears out the convictions of many critics that the uncouth swain is concerned about himself--as well as the convictions of other critics that the swain's real subject is Lycidas, God, poetry, or fame.

  19. The final eight lines, in contrast to the preceding 185, seem cohesive, providing a single speaker and a single subject of empathy: the swain. Lycidas is no longer even mentioned, and the speaker is implicit, leaving the swain as the only human figure. The swain is also portrayed in a much more agentive role than previously: "Thus sang the uncouth swain . . . He touch d the tender stops . . . At last he rose, and twitch'd his mantle blew" (ll. 186, 188, 192). Thus the ending reinforces the selfishness of the swain, caring more about his own feelings and future than about his deceased companion. But the term "selfish" cannot apply here; this is not the swain speaking but a self-less speaker wholly occupied by concern with another. The speaker of these last lines has completely subverted the natural egocentricity of the sentence, as Kuno noted was possible only in narrative. William Oram (conflating the various voices of the poem) remarks aptly, "for the first time in the poem his concern for his friend appears completely unselfish" (61; cf. Zagorin 11). Moreover, these lines contain no paragrammatical structures, no reflective commentary on the basic sentence structure, so the speaker is apparently voice-less as well as self-less. To echo Fish with a different focus, this speaker, unlike all previous speakers in the poem, is very nearly anonymous.

  20. Yet this narrator is indeed saying something--just not about himself/herself. This speaker has different concerns from the paragrammatical voices of the poem: neither death nor youth are mentioned, nor any grief expressed. The focus on the swain seems consistent with one of the many topics of the previous lines, but the attitude toward him has changed: the vision for the swain's future is now one of "fresh woods and pastures new" rather than of youthful promise lost. The voice of this narrator appears coherent and objective, unlike the confused and subjective "Ay me" voice, yet it is a voice. To cite Palacas once more, "one clear meaning of voice is actually a construction of multiple voices, including an objective-style voice and one or more pragmatically motivated subjective-style, reflective voices" (523). According to Palacas' theory, the main grammar is the "objective-style voice," which appears to present truth, and main grammar is all the last eight lines provide. Milton has replaced the complex narration of the swain--with its multiple concerns and digressions--with a single voice authoritatively proposing the poem's one true meaning. Moreover, it now appears that this voice has been quoting (and observing from a distance, like the Father in Paradise Lost) the uncouth swain, who has been a pseudo- or at best a sub-narrator. However, the mainstream, "objective-style" grammar of this voice is undermined by the voice of the swain, whose paragrammatic structures give him "personality." The voice of authority may seem trustworthy, but it is the swain's voice that seems genuine and, perhaps, likeable--revealing, also, a problem similar to that of Paradise Lost's Satan and fallen Adam appearing more interesting and sympathetic than the Father. We know nothing about the final narrator, not even whether to use a male or female pronoun, not even whether he/she had ever known or mourned Lycidas.

  21. The anonymity of this narrator, the blank space where a personality might be, tempts many critics to fill the space with Milton's personality and experiences. Yet if "voice" is a sign of an author's presence in the text, these eight lines are the most removed from Milton. The only "real person" we meet in "Lycidas" is the swain, apparently reflecting on his first-order comments, offering us his "true" feelings: a muddle of despair, anger, selfishness, grief. To adapt the ambiguous phrasing of line 166, for Lycidas the swain's sorrow is not dead; although Lycidas is now "the Genius of the shore" (l. 183), his friends still mourn. I do not mean to argue that Milton intended to subvert the authority of the final narrator, but that the grammatical strategies which portray the swain as a convincing mourner inevitably give him the poem's most compelling voice. Moreover, that the swain's "personality" consists primarily of conflicting feelings about Lycidas' death accords well with the historical/biographical backgrounds of "Lycidas." As recently argued by Norman Postlethwaite and Gordon Campbell, textual and other evidence suggest that Milton respected Edward King's learning and experienced close friendship with him (79-80). Like the swain for Lycidas, Milton would have experienced for King the composite of emotions known as grief.

  22. Linguist Susan Wright, in reviewing Kuno's book, commented that Kuno aims "to demonstrate that notions which have been considered to be non-syntactic (belonging to the area of performance rather than competence . . . ) can be described and rigorously applied in syntactic analysis" (554). At the same time, Kuno reports a wish to avoid reducing language to syntax alone; as he states in his conclusion, grammaticality is "very often the result of the interaction of numerous factors, both syntactic and nonsyntactic" (272). I would extend Wright's description, with this qualification, not only to Palacas' theory, but to my own approach. Much of the effects of "Lycidas," noted by others, are explainable in terms of the poem's syntax. Rather than making radically new claims I have primarily shown support for those readings which affirm the complexity and discontinuity of the poem, following the advice of Jonathan Culler:
  23. Poetry has complex effects which are extremely difficult to explain, and the analyst finds that his [sic] best strategy is to assume that the effects he sets out to account for have been conveyed to the reader and then to postulate certain general operations which might explain these effects and analogous effects in other poems. (125)

    Yet the poem transcends syntax. Linguistics can tell us what makes the poem incoherent, how the "speaker" is multiple, but not who the speaker is. Thus, for instance, I have been careful to use the poem's term "Pilot of the Galilean lake" rather than attempting to identify the Pilot as St. Peter, or as Pecheux argues, a combination of Peter, Moses, and Christ (238). The gap between sign and meaning, between semblance and truth, so evident in "Lycidas," ultimately defeats linguistic analysis--or defeats the ultimate linguistic analysis, at least. "Lycidas" fits Barthes' definition of "text" as opposed to "work": the text is "structured but off-centred, without closure"; it is not merely plural but "accomplishes the very plural of meaning: an irreducible (and not merely an acceptable) plural" (1007). The irreducible plurality of "Lycidas" accurately represents the complexity and plurality of the human consciousness, and especially the human consciousness suffering the destabilizing pain of grief. Moreover, it embodies the indeterminacy of meaning, the distance between sentence structure and truth. Syntax cannot lead us to God.


This article is a revision of a paper delivered at the Twentieth International Conference on Patristic, Mediaeval, and Renaissance Studies, Villanova University (Villanova, PA), 16 September 1995. I have analyzed and quoted "Lycidas" in the 1638 Justa Edouardo King facsimiles, but the alterations of other editions ("Ah me" to "Ay me" or parentheses to commas) do not materially affect the instances of grammar and paragrammar cited here. Finally, many thanks to Art Palacas, who provided useful commentary on a draft of my conference paper, after introducing me to Kuno's theory and his own.

Works Cited

Responses to this piece intended for the Readers' Forum may be sent to the editor at emls@arts.ubc.ca.

© 1996, R.G. Siemens (Editor, EMLS).
(December 11, 1996)