Introduction. Sonnet 1 is a meditation on the commonplace contrast of the nightingale and cuckoo, and all that they have traditionally been made to represent. The nightingale is the "bird of song" who portends "success in love" and brings good fortune to those who listen to its melodious song. The cuckoo is the "rude Bird of Hate" most commonly associated with jealously and cuckoldry. The contrast between the nightingale and cuckoo enables Milton to establish the symbolic identification of Philomel with chastity which receives explicit reiteration in A Mask (Variorum 2(2): 357). Collin O'Mara and Amar Dhand

Nightingale. The "bird of song" popular in many poems, especially Italian sonnets. Milton may be echoing the literary tradition of poems such as The Cuckoo and the Nightingale by Sir Thomas Clanvowe (Hughes, 53). See also The Lady's Song to Echo in A Mask 230-243 and Elegy 5.25.

hours. A reference to the daughters of Zeus and Themis the goddess of justice, the Horae were deities whose dancing brought about the change of seasons. For an account of their birth see Hesiod's Theogony 901.

liquid notes. The adjective "liquid" is especially appropriate to describe the song of the Nightingale as compared to the song of the cuckoo. The nightingale sings a very melodic cascade of sounds over many frequencies whereas the cuckoo sings a two-note song characteristic of a cuckoo clock.

shallow.Thin, harsh (OED2).

Cuccoo's bill. Hearing the nightingale before the cuckoo heralded luck in love.

Bird of Hate. The cuckoo's call was believed to prophesy cuckoldry or infidelity, causing people to associate it with revenge and hate.