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BEFORE the starry threshold of Jove's court
Confin'd, and pester'd in thisF. here,
But to my task. Neptune besides the sway
Of every salt flood, and each ebbing stream,
The unadorned bosom of the deep,
crowns, And wield their little tridents: but this Isle, The greatest and the best of all the main, He quarters to his blue-hair'd deities; And all this tract that fronts the falling sun 30 A noble r of mickle trust and power Has in his charge, with temper'd awe to guide An old, and haughty nation proud in arms: Where his fair offspring nurs'd in princely lore Are coming to attend their father's state, 35 And new-intrusted sceptre; but their way Lies through the perplex'd paths of this drear wood The nodding horror of whose shady brows
Threats the forlorn and wand'ring passenger;
* Milton, seems in this poem to have imitated Shakspeare's manner more than in any other of his works; and it was very natural for a young author, Fo" iece for the stage, to o. to him1
self for a pattern the most celebrated master of Englis
closely imitated several passages in Beaumont and Fletcher's play of The Faithless Shepherdess.
Comus. The star that bids the shepherd fold, Now the top of heaven doth hold, And the gilded car of da His glowing axle doth o, In the steep Atlantic stream, And the slope sun his upward beam Shoots against the dusky pole, I’acing toward the other goal Of his chamber in the east. Meanwhile welcome joy, and feast, Midnight shout, and revelry, Tipsy i. and jollity; Braid your locks with rosy twine, Dropping odours, o wine. Rigour now is gone to And Advice with scrupulous head, Strict Age, and sour Severity With their grave saws in slumber lie. We that are of purer fire Imitate the starry choir, Who in their nightly watchful spheres, Lead in swift round the months and years. The sounds and seas, with all their finny drove, Now to the inoon in wavering morrice move; 116 And on the tawny sands and shelves # the pert fairies and the o elves. #. impled brook, and fountain brim,
e wood-nymphs deck'd with daisies trim, Their merry wakes and pastimes keep: What hath night to do with sleep? Night hath better sweets to prove, Venus now wakes, and wakens Love. Come let us our rites begin, Tis only day-light that makes sin, Which these dun shades will ne'er report. Hail goddess of nocturnal sport Dark-veil'd Cotytto, to whom the secret flame Of midnight torches burns; mysterious dame, 150 That ne'er art call’d, but when the dragon womb Qf Stygian darkness spits her thickest gloom, And makes one blot of all the air, Stay thy cloudy ebon chair Wherein thou rid'st with Hecat, and befriend 135 Us thy vow'd priests, till utmost end Of all o dues be done, and none left out, Ere the blabbing eastern scout, The nice morn on th' Indian steep From her cabin'd loop-hole peep, And to the tell-tale sun descry Our conceal’d solemnity. Come, knit hands, and beat the ground In a light fantastic round.
95 100 105
Break off, break off, I feel the different pace 145
| And hug him into snares.
And to my wily trains; I shallere long 151
And give it false presentments, lest the place
whom § keeps up about his country gear.
The Lady enters.
This way the noise was, if mine ear be true, 170
And thou unblemish'd form of Chastity; 215 I see you visibly, and now believe to whom all things ill
That he, the Supreme Good
Comus. Can any mortal mixture of earth's mould Breathe such divine enchanting ravishment? 245 Sure something holy lodges in that breast, And with these raptures moves the vocal air To testify his hidden residence: How sweetly did they float upon the wings Of silence, through the empty-vaulted night, 250 At every fall smoothing the raven down Of darkness till it smil'd : I have oft heard My mother Circe with the Sirens three, Amidst the flowery-kirtled Naiades Culling their potent herbs, and baleful drugs, 255 Who as they sung, would take the prison'd soul, And lap it in Elysium; Scylla wept, And chid her barking waves into attention, And fell Charybdis murmur'd soft applause:
Yet they in pleasing slumber lull'd the sense, 260
I'll speak to her, And she shall be my queen. #. foreign wonder, Whom certain these rough shades did never breed, Unless the goddess that in rural shrine Dwell'st here with Pan, or Silvan by bless'd song Forbidding every bleak unkindly fo 269 To touch the prosp'rous growth of this tall wood. Lady. Nay, genile Shepherd, ill is lost that praise That is address'd to unattending ears; Not any boast of skill, but extreme shift How to regain my sever'd company, Compell'd me to awake the courteous Echo 275 To give me answer from her mossy couch. Com. wo chance, good Lady, hath bereft you thus: Lady. Dim darkness and this leafy labyrinth. Com. Could that divide you from near-ushering guides 2 Lady. § left me weary on a grassy turf. 280 Com. By falsehood, or discourtesy, or why? Lady. To seek i' th' valley some cool friendly spring. Com. And left your fair side all unguarded, Lady? Lady. They were but twain, and purpos'd quick return. 284 Com. Perhaps forestalling night prevented them. Lady. How easy my misfortune is to hit! Com. Imports their loss, beside the present need? Lady. No less than if I should my brothers lose. Com. Were they of manly prime; or youthful bloom 9 289 Lady. As smooth as Hebe's their unrazor'd lips. Com. Two such I saw, what time the labour'd ox In his loose traces from the furrow came, And the swink'd hedger at his supper sat; I saw them under a green mantling vine That crawls along the side of yon small hill, Plucking ripe clusters from the tender shoots; Their port was more than human, as they stood: I took it for a fairy vision Of some gay creatures of the element, That in the colours of the rainbow live, 300 And play i' th'o: clouds. I was awe-struck, And as I pass'd, I worshipp'd; if those you seek, It were a journey like the path to heaven, To help you find them. Ilady. Gentle villager, 304 What readiest way would bring me to that place 2 Com. Due west it rises from this shrubby point. Lady. To find out that, good Shepherd, I suppose, In such a scant allowance of star-light, Would overtask the best land-pilot's art, Without the sure guess of well-practis'd feet. 510 Com. I know each lane, and every alley green, Dingle or bushy dell of this wild wood And every bosky bourn from side to side, My daily walks and ancient neighbourhood; And if your stray-attendants be yet lodg’d, Or shroud within these limits, I shall know Ere morrow wake, or the low-roosted lark From her that nod allet rouse; if otherwise I can conduct you, Lady, to a low But loyal cottage, where you may be safe Till further quest. Lady. Shepherd I take thy word, And trust thy honest offer'd courtesy,
Which oft is sooner found in lowly sheds
The tro Brothers. Eld. Bro. Unmuffle, ye faint stars, and thou,
That wont'st to love the traveller's benizon,
2. Bro. Or if our eyes
Eld. Bro. Peace, Brother, be not over-exquisite To cast the fashion of uncertain evils; 360 For grant they be so, while they rest unknown, What need a man forestall his date of grief, And run to meet what he would most avoid? Or if they be but false alarms of fear, How bitter is such self-delusion ? I do not think my Sister so to seek, Or so unprincipled in virtue's book, And the sweet peace that goodness bosoms ever, As that the single want of light and noise (Not being in danger, as I trust she is not) 370 Could stir the constant mood of her calm thoughts, And put them into misbecoming plight. Virtue could see to do what virtue would By her own radiant light, though sun and moon
ere in the flat sea sunk. And wisdom's self 375 Oft seeks to sweet retired solitude, Where with her best nurse contemplation She plumes her feathers, and lets grow her wings, That in the various bustle of resort Were all too rufiled, and sometimes impair'd. 380 He that has light within his own clear breast May sit i' th' centre, and enjoy bright day: But he that hides a dark soul, and foul thoughts, Benighted walks under the mid-day sun; Himself is his own dungeon. 385
2. Bro. 'Tis most true, That musing meditation most affects The pensive secresy of desert cell, Far from the cheerful haunt of men and herds, And sits as safe as in the senate house; For who would rob a hermit of his weeds, His few books or his beads, or maple dish, Or do his gray hairs any violence 2 But beauty, like the fair Hesperian tree Laden with blooming gold, had need the guard 395 Of dragon-watch with unenchanted eye, To save her blossoms, and defend her fruit From the rash hand of bold incontinence. You may as well spread out the unsunn'd heaps Of miser's treasure by an outlaw's den, 400 And tell me it is safe, as bid me hope Danger will wink on opportunity, And let a single helpless maiden pass Uninjur'd in this wild surrounding waste. Of night, or loneliness it recks me not; I fear the dread events that dog them both, Lest some ill-greeting touch attempt the person Of our unowned Sister.
Eld. Bro. I do not, Brother, Infer, as if I o: my Sister's state Secure without all doubt, or controversy: Yet where an o poise of hope and fear Does arbitrate th' event, my nature is That I incline to hope, rather than fear, And gladly banish squint suspicion. My Sister is not so defenceless left As you imagine; she has a hidden strength Which you remember not. 2. Bro. What hidden strength, 419 Unless the strength of heaven, if you mean that? Eld. Bro. I mean that too, but yet a hidden strength, Which if heaven §. it, may be term'd her own, 'Tis chastity, my Brother, chastity: She that has that, is clad in complete steel, 425 And like a quiver'd nymph with arrows keen May trace huge forests, and unharbour'd heaths, Infamous hills, and sandy perilous wilds, Where through the sacred rays of chastity, No savage fierce, bandit, or mountaineer Will dare to soil her virgin purity; Yea there, where very desolation dwells By grots, and caverns shagg'd with horrid shades, §§ may pass on with unblench'd majesty, Beit not done in pride, Qr in presumption. 435 Some say no evil thing float walks by night, In fog, or fire, by lake or moorish fen, Blue meagre ha;, or stubborn unlaid ghost, That breaks his magic chains at curfew time, No goblin, or swart fairy of the mine, 440 Hath hurtful power o'er true virginity. Do ye believe me yet, or shall I call Antiquity from the old schools of Greece To testify the arms of chastity? Hence had the huntress Diam her dread bow, 445 Fair silver-shafted queen, for ever chaste, Wherewith she tam'd the brinded lioness And spotted mountain pard, but set at nought The frivolous bolt of Cupid; gods and men twoods, Fear'd her stern frown, and she was queen o' th' What was that snaky-headed Gorgon shield, That wise Minerva wore, unconquer'd virgin, Wherewith she freez'd her foes to congeal’d stone, But rigid looks of chaste austerity, And noble grace that dash'd brute violence 455 With sudden adoration, and blank awe ? So dear to heaven is saintly chastity, That when a soul is found sincerely so, 3 thousand liveried angels lacky her, Driving far off each thing of sin and guilt, And in clear dream, and solemn vision, Tell her of things that no gross ear can hear, Till oft converse with heavenly habitants Begin to cast a beam on th’ outward shape, The umpolluted temple of the mind, 465 And turns it by degrees to the soul's essence, Till all be made immortal: but when lust, By unchaste looks, loose gestures, and foul talk, But most by lewd and lavish act of sin, Lets in defilement to the inward parts, 470 The soul grows clotted by contagion, Imbodies, and imbrutes, till she quite lose The divine property of her first being. Such are those thick and gloomy shadows damp Oft seen in charnel vaults and sepulchres, 475 Ling’ring, and sitting by a new made grave, .As loath to leave the body that it o And link'd itself by carnal sensuality To a degenerate and degraded state. 2. Bro. How charming is divine philosophy' 480 Not harsh, and crabbed, as dull fools suppose, But musical as is Apollo's lute, And a perpetual feast of nectar'd sweets, Where no crude surfeit reigns. Eld. Bro. List, list, I hear 485 Some far-off halloo break the silent air. 2. Bro. Methought so too; what should it be? Eld. Bro. For certain Either some one like us night-founder'd here, Or else some neighbour wood-man, or at worst, 490 Some roving robber calling to his fellows. 2. Bro. Heaven keep my Sister Again, again, and Best draw, and stand upon our guard. inear; Eld. Bro. I'll halloo; If he be friendly, he comes well; If not, 495 Defence is a good cause, and heaven be for us.
The attendant Spirit, habited like a Shepherd.
That halloo I should know, what are you? speak; Come not too near, you fall on iron stakes else.
spir. What voice is that? my young lord 2 speak again. 2. Bro. O brother, 'tis my father's shepherd, sure. Eld. Bro. Thyrsis? whose artful strains have oft delay'd - 501 The huddling brook to hear his madrigal, And sweeten’d every musk-rose of the dale. How cam'st thou here, good swain? hath any ram Slipp'd from the fold, or young kid lost his dam, Or'straggling wether the pent flock forsook? 506 How couldst thou find this dark sequester'd nook 2 spir. O my lov'd master's heir, and his next joy, I came not here on such a trivial toy As a stray'd ewe, or to pursue the stealth 510 Of pilfering wolf; not all the fleecy wealth That doth enrich these downs, is worth a thought To this my errand, and the care it brought. But, O my virgin fail, where is she 2 How chance she is not in your company 2 515 Eld. Bro. To tell thee sadly, Shepherd, without blame, Or our neglect, we lost her as we came. Spir. Ay me unhappy! then my fears are true. ld. Bro. What fears, good Thyrsis? Prythee briefly show. Spir. I'll tell ye; 'tis not vain or fabulous, 520 (Though so esteem'd by shallow ignorance) What the sage poets, taught by th’ heavenly muse, Story'd of old in high immortal verse, Of dire chimeras and enchanted isles, And rifted rocks whose entrance leads to hell; 525 For such there be, but unbelief is blind. Within the navel of this hideous wood, Immur'd in cypress shades a sorcerer dwells, Of Bacchus and of Circe born, great Comus, Deep skill'd in all his mother's witcheries. And here to every o wanderer, #y sly enticement gives his baneful cup, With many murmurs mix'd, whose pleasing poison The visage |. transforms of him that drinks, g
And the in glorious likeness of a beast 535
Deny her nature, and be never more 566
Of my most honour'd Lady, your dear sister.
Into swift flight, till I had found you here, But further know I not.
2. Bro. O night and shades, thow are * join'd with hell in triple knot, Against th' unarmed weakness of one virgin Alone, and helpless! Is this the confidence You gave me, Brother?
Eld. Bro. Yes, and keep it still, Lean on it safely; not a period Shall be unsaid for me: against the threats of malice or of sorcery, or that power Which erring men call Chance, this I hold firm, Virtue may be assail'd, but never hurt, 596 Surpris'd by unjust force, but not inthrall'd; Yea, even that which mischief meant most harm, Shall in the jo trial prove most glory; But evil on itself shall back recoil, 600 -And mix no more with goodness, when at last Gather'd like scum, of. to itself, It shall be in eternal restless chan Self-fed, and self-consumed: if this fail, The pillar'd firmament is rottenness, 605 And earth's base builton stubble. Butcome let's on. Against th' opposing will and arm of Heaven May never this just sword be lifted up; But for that damn'd magician, let him be girt With all the grisly legions that troop 610 Under the sooty flag of Acheron, Harpies and Hydras, or all the monstrous forms *Twixt Africa and Ind, I’ll find him out, And force him to restore his purchase back, Qr drag him by the curls to a foul death, Curs'd as his life.
Spir. Alas! good vent’rous youth, I love thy i. and bold emprise; But here thy sword can do thee little stead; Far other arms, and other weapons must 620 He those that quell the might of hellish charms: He with his bare wand can unthread thy joints, And crumble all thy sinews.
Eld. Bro. Why pr’ythee, Shepherd, How durst thou then thyself approach so near, 525 As to make this relation?
Spir. Care and utmost shifts How to secure the Lady from surprisal, Brought to my mind a certain shepherd lad, Of small regard to see to, yet well skill'd 650 In every virtuous plant and healing herb, That spreads her verdant leaf to th’ morningray: He lov'd me well, and oft would beg me sing, Which when I did, he on the tender grass Would sit and harken e'en to ecstacy, 635 And in requital ope his leathern scrip, And show me simples of a thousand names, Telling their strange and vigorous faculties: A o: the rest a small unsightly root, But of divine effect, he cull'd me out; The leaf was darkish, and had prickles on it, But in another country, as he said, Bore a bright golden flower, but not in this soil: Unknown, and like est-end, and the dull swain Treads on it daily with his clouted shoon; 645 And yet more med'cinal is it than that Moly That Hermes once to wise Ulysses gave; He cali'd it Haemony, and gave it me, And bade me keep it as of sov’reign use 'Gainst all enchantments, mildew, blast, or damp Or ghastly furies' apparition. 637 I purs'd it up, but sittle reck'ning made, Till now that this extremity compell’d. But now I find it true; for by this means I knew, the foul enchanter though disguis'd, Enter'd the very *... of his spells, And yet came off; if you have this about you, *As I will give you when we go) you may Boldly assault the necromancer's hall; Where if he be, with dauntless hardihood 660 And brandish’d biode rush on him, break his glass, And shed the luscious liquor on the ground, But seize his wand; though he and his curs'd crew Fierce .. of battle make, and menace high, Qr like the sons of Vulcan vomit smoke, 665 Yet will they soon retire, if he but shrink.
Eld. Bro. Thyrsis, lead on Apace I'll follow thee, And some angel bear as ield before us.
And you a statue, or as Daphne was Root-bound, that fled Apollo. Lady. Fool, do not boast, Thou canst not touch the freedom of my mind 674 With all thy charms, although this corporal rind Thou hast immanacled, while heaven sees Com. Why are you vex'd, Hady ? Why do ye rown 2 Here dwell no frowns, moranger; from these gates Sorrow flies far: See here be all the pleasures That fancy can beget on youthful thoughts, 680 When the fresh blood grows lively, and returns Brisk as the April buds in primrose-season. And first behold this cordial julap here, That flames and dances in his crystal bounds, With spirits of balm, and #o syrups mix’d. Not that Nepenthes, which the wife of Thome 686 In Egypt gave to Jove-born Helena, Is of such power to stir up joy as this, To life so !. , or so cool to thirst Why should you be so cruel to yourself, And to those dainty limbs which nature lent For gentle usage, and soft delicacy 2 But you invert the covenants of her trust, And harshly deal like an ill borrower With that which you receiv'd on other terms, 695 Scorning the unexempt condition By which all mortal frailty may subsist, Refreshment after toil, ease after pain, That have been tir'd all day without repast, And timely rest have wanted; but, fair virgin, 700 This will restore all soon. Lady. 'Twill not, false traitor "Twill not restore the truth and honesty That thou lo banish'd from thy tongue with les. Was this the cottage, and the safe abode 705 Thou told'st me of P what grim aspects are these, These ugly-headed monsters 2 Mercy guard me! Hence with thy brew'd enchantments, foul deceiver; Hast thou betray'd my credulous innocence With visor'd falsehood, and base forgery 2 710 And wouldst thou seek again to trap me here With liquorish baits fit to ensnare a brute? Were it a draft for Juno when she banquets, I would not taste thy treasonous offer; none But such as are good men can give good things, 715 And that which is not good is not delicious To a well-govern’d and wise appetite. Com. O foolishness of men that lend their ears To those budge doctors of the Stoic fur, And fetch their precepts from the Cymic tub. 720 Praising the lean and sallow abstinence. Wherefore did Nature pour her bounties forth, With such a full and unwithdrawing hand, Covering the earth with odours, fruits, and flocks, Thronging the seas with spawn innumerable, 725 But .#. please and sate the curious taste? And set to work millions of spinning worms, That in their green shops weave the smooth-hair'd silk, To deck her sons; and that no corner might Be vacant of her plenty, in her own loins 750 She hutch'd th' all worshipp'd ore, and precious To store her children with: if all the world [gems Should in a pet of temp'rance feed on pulse, Drink the clear stream, and nothing wear but
And we should serve him as a o master,