In “The Two-handed Engine and the Fatal Bellman: ‘Lycidas’ and ‘Macbeth’” (Notes and Queries, April 1979, 126–128), June Winter showed that “Milton in his passage about the corrupt clergy (Lycidas, 108–31) is invoking imagery used by Shakespeare in passages of Act II in Macbeth, a play about corruption in the state of Scotland.”  Before learning of her work, I had collected evidence that the poem was connected to Act III of Macbeth, and in such a way as to suggest the association of Milton, or the singer of Lycidas, with Macbeth, and Edward King, or Lycidas, with legitimate royalty and Banquo in particular.

Read the rest of this entry »

At the end of La Fontaine’s first fable, La Cigale et la fourmi [The Cicada and the Ant], the ant advises the cicada, who has sung all summer, “Eh bien! dansez maintenant.” [“Well! now dance.”].  Why dance?  To keep warm, of course; but (inasmuch as this is a death sentence) there is more: it is time for the cicada to enter the danse macabre, the procession led by Death—to dance her way into the grave.  Indeed, the word for “now” is main-tenant, which is “hand-holding.”