''L'Allegro'' is a
pastoral A pastoral lifestyle is that of shepherds herd A herd is a social group of certain animals of the same species, either wildness, wild or Domestication, domestic. The form of collective animal behavior associated with this is called ''he ...

poem by
John Milton John Milton (9 December 16088 November 1674) was an English poet and intellectual who served as a civil servant for the under its Council of State and later under . He wrote at a time of religious flux and political upheaval, and is best kno ...

John Milton
published in his 1645 ''Poems''. ''L'Allegro'' (which means "the happy man" in Italian) has from its first appearance been paired with the contrasting pastoral poem, ''
Il Penseroso ''Il Penseroso'' (The Serious Man) is a poem by John Milton John Milton (9 December 16088 November 1674) was an English poet and intellectual who served as a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England The Commonwealth was the pol ...
'' ("the melancholy man"), which depicts a similar day spent in contemplation and thought.


It is uncertain when ''L'Allegro'' and ''Il Penseroso'' were composed because they do not appear in Milton's Trinity College manuscript of poetry. However, the settings found in the poem suggest that they were possibly composed shortly after Milton left Cambridge. The two poems were first published in '' Poems of Mr. John Milton both English and Latin, compos'd at several times'' dated 1645 but probably issued early in 1646. In the collection, they served as a balance to each other and to his Latin poems, including "Elegia 1" and "Elegia 6".


Milton follows the traditional classical hymn model when the narrator invokes Mirth/
Euphrosyne Euphrosyne (; Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speakers simply as Greek (, ), re ...
and her divine parentage:Revard 1997 p. 96 :In Heav'n yclept Euphrosyne, :And by men, heart-easing Mirth, :Whom lovely Venus at a birth :With two sister Graces more :To ivy-crowned Bacchus bore (lines 13–16) The narrator continues by requesting Mirth to appear with: :Jest and youthful Jollity, :Quips and Cranks, and wanton Wiles, :Nods, and Becks, and wreathed Smiles, :... :Sport that wrinkled Care derides, :And Laughter holding both his sides. (lines 26–28, 31–32) Later, the narrator describes how Mirth is connected to pastoral environments: :Whilst the landscape round it measures, :Russet lawns, and fallows grey, :Where the nibbling flocks do stray :... :Meadows trim with daisies pied, :Shallow brooks, and rivers wide (lines 70–72, 75–76) Near the end of the poem, the narrator requests from Mirth to be immersed in the poetry and the pleasures that Mirth is able to produce: :And ever against eating cares, :Lap me in soft
Lydian airs
Lydian airs
, :Married to immortal verse :Such as the meeting soul may pierce (lines 135–138) The final lines of the poem frame a response to questions posed in Elizabethan poetry, including
Christopher Marlowe Christopher Marlowe, also known as Kit Marlowe (; baptised Baptism (from the Greek language, Greek noun βάπτισμα ''báptisma'') is a Christians, Christian rite of initiation, admission and Adoption (theology), adoption, almost ...

Christopher Marlowe
's "Come live with me and be my love":Lewalski 2003 p. 5 :These delights, if thou canst give, :Mirth with thee, I mean to live. (lines 151–152)


According to Barbara Lewalski, ''L'Allegro'', along with ''Il Penseroso'', "explore and contrast in generic terms the ideal pleasures appropriate to contrasting lifestyles... that a poet might choose, or might choose at different times, or in sequence". In particular, ''L'Allegro'' celebrates Grace Euphrosyne through the traditional Theocritan pastoral model. The poem is playful and is set within a pastoral scene that allows the main character to connect with folk stories and fairy tales in addition to various comedic plays and performances. There is a sort of progression from the pleasures found in ''L'Allegro'' with the pleasures found within ''Il Penseroso''. Besides being set in a traditional form, there is no poetic antecedent for Milton's pairing. The poem invokes Mirth and other allegorical figures of joy and merriment, and extols the active and cheerful life, while depicting a day in the countryside according to this philosophy. Mirth, as one of the Graces, is connected with poetry within Renaissance literature, and the poem, in its form and content, is similar to dithrambs to Bacchus or hymns to Venus. However, the pleasure that Mirth brings is moderated, and there is a delicate balance between the influence of Venus or Bacchus achieved by relying on their daughter. The poems have been classified in various traditions and genres by various scholars, including: as academic writing by E. M. W. Tillyard; as pastoral by Sara Watson; as part of classical philosophy by Maren-Sofie Rostvig; as part of Renaissance encomia by S. P. Woodhouse and Douglas Bush, and as similar to Homeric hymns and Pindaric odes. Stelle Revard believes that the poems follow the classical hymn model which discuss goddess that are connected to poetry and uses these females to replace Apollo completely.

Critical reception

During the eighteenth century, both ''L'Allegro'' and ''Il Penseroso'' were popular and were widely imitated by poets. The poet and engraver
William Blake William Blake (28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827) was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his life, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the Romantic poetry, poetry and visual art of t ...

William Blake
, who was deeply influenced by Milton's poetry and personality, made illustrations to both ''L'Allegro'' and ''Il Penseroso''. Revard believes that Milton, in his first publication of poems, "takes care to showcase himself as a poet in these first and last selections and at the same time to build his poetic reputation along the way by skillful positioning of poems such as 'L'Allegro' and 'Il Penseroso.'"Revard 1997 p. 1 Handel's ''
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato ("The Cheerful, the Thoughtful, and the Moderate Man"), HWV 55, is a pastoral A pastoral lifestyle is that of shepherds herding livestock around open areas of land according to season A season is a division of the year based on changes in ...
'' (1740) is based partly on this poem.
Charles Villiers Stanford Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (30 September 1852 – 29 March 1924) was an Irish composer, music teacher, and conductor of the late Romantic music, Romantic era. Born to a well-off and highly musical family in Dublin, Stanford was educated ...

Charles Villiers Stanford
's 5th Symphony is titled ''L'Allegro et Il Pensieroso'' after the two poems of Milton.

See also

* 1645 in poetry


General references

* Havens, Raymond. ''The Influence of Milton on English Poetry''. New York: Russell & Russell, 1961. * Kerrigan, William; Rumrich, John; and Fallon, Stephen (eds.) ''The Complete Poetry and Essential Prose of John Milton''. New York: The Modern Library, 2007. * Lewalski, Barbara. "Genre" in ''A Companion to Milton''. Ed. Thomas Corns. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2003. * Osgood, Charles. ''The Classical Mythology of Milton's English Poems''. New York: Holt, 1900. * Revard, Stella. ''Milton and the Tangles of Neaera's Hair''. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1997. * Røstvig, Maren-Sofie. ''The Happy Man: Studies in the Metamorphosis of a Classical Idea, 1600–1700''. Oslo: Oslo University Press, 1962. * Tillyard, E. M. W. "Milton: 'L'Allegro' and 'Il Penseroso'' in ''The Miltonic Setting, Past and Present''. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1938. * Watson, Sara. "Milton's Ideal Day: Its Development as a Pastoral Theme". ''PMLA'' 57 (1942): 404–420. * Woodhouse, A. S. P. and Bush, Douglas. ''Variorum: The Minor English Poems'' Vol 2. New York: Columbia University Press, 1972.

External links


William Blake's illustrations
{{DEFAULTSORT:Allegro 1633 poems 1645 poems Poetry by John Milton