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that the writer of this article ever banquetted upon. The jocundity—plausibility—festivity, and voluptuousness he assumed, were among the finest effects of his consummate abilities. His manner of reciting the rich melody of his first speech, and the happy contempt of
"The blabbing Eastern Scout, the nice Morn, fife.''
he who has heard will never forget—he who has not will never conceive.
This Mask was first represented atLuillow-Castleon Michaelmas-day 1634, before the Right Hon. the Earl of BridgeWater, Lord President of Wales: the principal Performers were the Lord Brackly, Mr. Thomas Egerton, and the Lady Aiice Egerton*. In the year 1774 it was abridged, and has ever since been performed as an Afterpiece at the Theatre-Royal in Covent-Garden. The following were the reasons offered to the Public in favour of the Abridgment, and were prefixed to an edition of the piece then published in its curtailed state.
«« Pure Poetry, unmixt with passion, however admired in the "closet, has scarce ever been able to sustain itself on the stage. "In this Abridgment of Milton's Comus no circumstance of "the drama contained in the original Mask is omitted. The "divine arguments on temperance and chastity, together with "many descriptive passages, are indeed expunged or contracted; "but, divine as they are, the most accomplished declaimers have "been embarrassed in the recitation of them: the speaker vain"ly laboured to prevent a coldness and languor in the audience: "and it cannot be dissembled that The Mask of Comus, with "all its poetical beauties, not only maintained its place on the "theatre chiefly by the assistance of music, but the music it"self, as if overwhelmed by the weight of the drama, almost "sunk with it, and became in a manner lost to the stage. That "music, formerly heard and applauded with rapture, is now "restored, and the Mask, on the above considerations, is cur"tailed.
* The Music was originally composed by Sir Henry Lawes, who also represented the At:entlant Spirit. The present Music is the composition of Dr. Arne.
"As a further argument in favour of the drama inks present "form, it might perhaps be urged, that the festivity of the cha"racrer of Comus is heightened by his assisting in the vocal "parts as well as in the dialogue, and that theatrical propriety "is no longer violated in the character of the Lady, who now "invokes the Echo in her own person,without absurdly leaving
the scene vacant as heretofore, while another voice warbled "out the song which the Lady was to be supposed to execute.
"To conclude, it may not be impertinent to observe, that "The Faithful Shepherdess of Beaumont and Fletcher, which "is esteemed one of the most beautiful compositions in our "language, not only afforded our Author the first hint of thi9 "Mask, but that several brilliant passages of Comus are imi"tated from that excellent performance; yet it is remarkable "that the play of The Faithful Shepherdess, being merely poe
tical, was condemned on its first representation; for which "hard fate, though succeeding critics have reprehended the "barbarism of that age, yet no attempt has ever been hazarded '* to restore the hapless drama to the stage."
OUR stedfast Bard, to his own genius true,
Such Milton was: 'lis ours to bring him forth,
Paradise Lost, Book VII. ver. 31.
Attend the strains; and should some meaner phrase Hang on the style and clog the nobler lays, Excuse what we with trembling hand supply, To give his beauties to the public eye: His the pure essence, ours the grosser mean Thro' which his spirit is in allion seen. Observe the force, observe the flame divine That glows, breathes, aBs, in each harmonious line. Great objeEls only strihe the gen'rous heart; Praise the sublime, overlooh the mortal part: Be there your judgment, here your candour shewn; Small is our portion—and we wish 'twere none.