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Imperial rule of all the sea-girt iles,
That like to rich and various gems inlay
The unadorned bosom of the deep,
Which he to grace his tributary Gods
By course commits to several government, 25
And gives them leave to wear their saphir crowns,
And wield their little tridents: but this Ile,
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 Peer 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 ofspring nurs'd in princely lore
Are coming to attend their father's state, 35
And new-intrusted scepter; 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;
And here their tender age might suffer peril, 40
But that by quick command from sovran Jove
I was dispatch'd for their defense and guard;
And listen why, for I will tell you now
What never yet was heard in tale or song,
From old or modern bard, in hall or bower. 45
Bacchus, that first from out the purple grape Crush'd the sweet poison of mis-used wine, After the Tuscan mariners transform’d,
Coasting the Tyrrhene shore, as the winds listed,
On Circe's iland fell: (Who knows not Circe 50
The daughter of the sun? whose charmed cup
Whoever tasted, lost his upright shape,
And downward fell into a groveling swine)
This Nymph that gaz'd upon his clustring locks,
With ivy berries wreath’d, and his blithe youth,
Had by him, ere he parted thence, a son 56
Much like his father, but his mother more,
Whom therefore she brought up, and Comus nam'd,
Who ripe, and frolic of his full grown age,
Roving the Celtic and Iberian fields,
At last betakes him to this ominous wood,
And in thick shelter of black shades imbowr'd
Excels his mother at her mighty art,
Offering to every weary traveller
His orient liquor in a crystal glass,
65 Toquench the drouth of Phoebus, which as they taste, (For most do taste through fond intemp’rate thirst) Soon as the potion works, their human count’nance, Th’express resemblance of the Gods, is chang'd Into some brutish form of wolf, or bear, 70 Or ounce, or tiger, hog, or bearded goat, All other parts remaining as they were; And they, so perfect is their misery, Not once perceive their foul disfigurement, But boast themselves more comely than before, 75 And all their friends and native home forget,
E e 2
To roll with pleasure in a sensual sty.
Therefore when any favor’d of high Jove
Chances to pass through this adventrous glade,
Swift as the sparkle of a glancing star 80
I shoot from Heav'n, to give him safe convoy,
As now I do: But first I must put off
These my sky robes spun out of Iris woof,
And take the weeds and likeness of a swain,
That to the service of this house belongs, 85
Who with his soft pipe, and smooth-dittied song,
Well knows to still the wild winds when they roar,
And ush the waving woods, nor of less faith,
And in this office of his mountain watch,
Likeliest, and nearest to the present aid
Of this occasion. But I hear the tread
Of hateful steps, I must be viewless now.
Comus enters with a charming rod in one hand, his glass
in the other; with him a rout of monsters, headed like sundry sorts of wild beasts, but otherwise like men and women, their apparel glistering; they come in making a riotous and unruly noise, with torches in their hands.
Com. The star that bids the shepherd fold,
Now the top of Heav'n doth hold,
And the gilded car of day
His glowing axle doth allay
In the steep Atlantic stream,
And the slope sun his upward beam
Shoots against the dusky pole,
Pacing toward the other goal
Of his chamber in the east.
Mean while welcome Joy, and Feast,
Midnight Shout, and Revelry,
Tipsy Dance, and Jollity.
Braid your locks with rosy twine,
Dropping odors, dropping wine.
Rigor now is gone to bed,
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 quire,
Who in their nightly watchful spheres,
Lead in swift round the months and years.
The sounds and seas, with all their finny drove, 115
Now to the moon in wavering morrice move;
And on the tawny sands and shelves
Trip the pert faeries and the dapper elves.
By dimpled brook, and fountain brim,
The Wood-Nymphs deck'd with daisies trim, 120
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 Goddefs of nocturnal sport,
Dark-veil’d Cotytto, t' whom the secret flame
Of midnight-torches burns; mysterious dame, 130
That ne'er art call'd, but when the dragon womb
Of Stygian darkness spits her thickest gloom,
And makes one blot of all the air,
Stay thy cloudy ebon chair,
Wherein thou rid'lt with Hecat', and befriend 135
Us thy vow'd priests, till utmost end
Of all thy dues be done, and none left out,
Ere the blabbing eastern scout,
The nice morn on th’ Indian steep
From her cabin'd loophole peep,
140 And to the tell-tale sun descry Our conceald solemnity. Come, knit hands, and beat the ground In a light fantastic round.
The Measure. Break off, break off, I feel the different pace 145 Of some chaste footing near about this ground. Run to your shrouds, within these brakes and trees; Our number may affright: Some virgin sure (For so I can distinguish by mine art) Benighted in these woods. Now to my charms, 150 And to my wily trains; I shall ere long Be well-stock’d with as fair a herd as graz’d About my mother Circe. Thus I hurl