Page images

31 P. 56. Not that Nepenthes. See Pope's Odyssey, iv. 301, sq. and the " Faerie Queene," iv. 3, 43.

35 P. 58. The earth cumbered, and the winged air darked with plumes.

The image is taken from what the ancients said of the air of the northern islands, that it was clogged and darkened with feathers.

36 P. 60. It withers on the stalk with languished head.

Spenser, "Faerie Queene," ii. 12, 75 :—.

"Gather therefore the rose, whilst yet is prime,
For soon comes age, that will her pride deflower;
Gather the rose of love, whilst yet is time,

Whilst loving thou mayst loved be with equal crime."—Newton.

37 P. 60. It is for homely features to keep home. So in the "Two Gentlemen of Verona :"—

"Home-keeping youths have ever homely wits.'

38 P. 60. / had not thought to have unlocked my lips. The six following lines are spoken aside.—Sympson

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

41 P. 62. She fables not: I feel that I do fear.

Perhaps it is better to put a semicolon after that, meaning: "I feel that she does not fable," &c.—Sympson. These six lines are also spoken aside.

42 P. 64. Whilome she was the daughter of Locrine.

Locrine, king of the Britons, married Guendolen, the daughter of Corineus, Duke of Cornwall; but in secret, for fear of Corineus, he loved Estrildis, a fair captive whom he had taken in a battle with Humber, king of the Huns, and had by her a daughter equally fair, whose name was Sabrina. But when once his fear was off, by the death of Corineus, not content with secret enjoyment, divorcing Guendolen, he made Estrildis now his queen. Guendolen, all in rage, departs into Cornwall, and, gathering an army of her father's friends and subjects, gives battle to her husband by the river Sture; wherein Locrine, shot with an arrow, ends his life. But not so ends the fury of Guendolen, for Estrildis and her daughter Sabrina she throws into a river; and, to leave a monument of revenge, proclaims that the stream be thenceforth called after the damsel's name, which by length of time is now called Sabrina or Severn. This is the account given by Milton himself in the first book of his History of England; but he here takes some liberties with the story, in order to heighten the character of Sabrina.—Newton.

43 P. 66. That the shrewd meddling elf delights to make. Puck, or Kobin Goodfellow.

44 P. 68. And the Carpathian wizard's hook.]i. e. Proteus.

45 P. 6S. By dead Parthenope's dear tomb.]—This tomb was at Naples.

46 P. 69. And fair Ligea's golden comb. One of the sirens, and also a sea-nymph.

47 P. 73. Sprung of old Anchises' line.

For Loorine was the son of Brutus, who was the son of Silvius, he of Aseanius, and Ascanius of iEneas, the son of Anchises.

[ocr errors]

49 P. 73. And here and there thy banks upon.

Banks is the nominative case, as head was in the last line but one. The sense and syntax of the whole is, may thy head be crowned round about with towers, &c, and here and there [may] thy banks [be crowned] upon with groves, &c.—imaretyowro aoi at &xdal. The phrase is Greek.— Valton.

[ocr errors]

51 P, 76. To the ocean now I fly. A paraphrase of Ariel's song in the "Tempest:"—

"Where the bee sucks, there lurk I."

52 P. 78. Purfled.]—Flourished, embroidered with the needle.

53 P. 78. Sadly sits the Assyrian queen. Venus, so called, because she was first worshipped by the Assyrians.

54 P. 80. Heaven itself would stoop to her.

"Comus," observes Hallam, "was sufficient to convince any one of taste and feeling, that a great poet had arisen in England, and one partly formed in a different school from his contemporaries. Many of them had produced highly beautiful and imaginative passages; but none had evinced so classical a judgment, none had aspired to so regular a perfection. Jonson had learned much from the ancients, but there was a grace in their best models which he did not quite attain. Neither his 'Sad Shepherd,' nor the 'Faithful Shepherdess' of Fletcher, have the elegance or dignity of 'Comus.' A noble virgin and her young brothers, by whom this masque was originally represented, required an elevation, a purity, a sort of severity of sentiment which no one in that age could have given but Milton. He avoided, and nothing loth, the more festive notes which dramatic poetry was wont to mingle with its serious strain. But for this he was compensated by the brightest hues of fancy, and the sweetest melody of song. In 'Comus' we find nothing prosaic or feeble, no false taste in the incidents, and not much in the language, nothing over which we should desire to pass on a second perusal. The want of what we may call personality, none of the characters having names, except Comus himself, who is a very indefinite being, and the absence of all positive attributes of time and place, enhance the ideality of the fiction by a certain indistinctness not unpleasing to the imagination."

[ocr errors]


« PreviousContinue »