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c o m u 0
PRESENTED AT LUDLOW CASTLE, 1643, BEFORE
JOHN, EARL OF BIUDGEWATER,
THEN PRESIDENT OF WALES.
• TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE JOHN IXttlD VISCOUNT BRACKLEY.t
*rII and Lleir-Apporent to the Earl of Bridgewater, MY LORD,
This poem, which received its first oceasion of hirth from yourself and others of your noble family, nnd much honour from your own person in the |>crformance, now returns again to make a final ,ndication of itself to you. Although not openly acknowledged by the author,? yet it is a legitimate offsprtng, so lovely and so much desired, that the often copying of it hath tired my pen to give my several friends satisfaction, and brought me to a necessity of producing it to the public view; and now to offer it up in all rightful devotion to those Idtr hopes, and rare endowments of your much promising youth, which give a full assurance, to all that know you, of a future excellence. Live, iwect Lord, to be the honour of your name, and •eceive this as your own, from the hands of him, who hath by many favours been long obliged to your most honoured parents, and as in this representation your attendant Tltyrsis, so now in all real expression, your faithful and most humble servant, H. Lawes.
TTin Anendint Spirit, afterwards tn tl,e Habit o/Thyreis.
l.'onv,s vrith hu Crew.
Sabrina, tlte NymeA.
THK CHIEF PERSON'S, WHO PRESENTED, WERE The Lord llracldey. Mr. Thomas Egerton, hts brother. Tl,t Lad)- Alice Egerton.
C 0 M U S .
,'hefirst srrnc discovees a vild Wood. The Attendant Spirit descends or enters.
Befork the starry threshold of Jove's court
My mansion is, where those immortal shapes
• This is the dedication to Iv,wes's edition of the Mask, IC37.
* The first Brother in the Mask. W'arton.
''I never aoneared under Mtlton'a name, till the year IMS,
| Of bright aerial spirits live insphered
In regions mild of calm and serene air,
Above the smoke and stir of this dim spot,
Which men call Earth; and, with low-thoughted
Confiin'd and pester'd in this pin-fold here,
Strive to keep up a frail and feverish being,
Unmindful of the erown that Virtue gives,
After this mortal change, to her true servants.
Amongst the enthroned gods on sainted seats.
Yet some there be, that by due steps aspire
To lay their just hands on that golden key,
That opes the palace of'Eternity:
To such my errand is; and, but for such,
1 would not soil these pure ambrosial weeds
With the rank vapours of this sin-worn mould.
But to my task. Neptune, besides the sway
Of every salt flood, and each ebbing stream,
Took in by lot 'twixt high and nether Jove
Imperial rulef of all the sea-girt isles,
That, like to rich and various gems, inlay
The unadorn'd bosom of the deep:
Which he, to grace his tributary gods,
By course commits to several government,
Ainl gives them leave to wear their sapphire
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
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 offspring, nursed in princely lore,
Are coming to attend their father's state,
And new-entrusted sceptre: hut their way
Lies through the perplex'd paths of this dreol
The nodding horror of whose shady brows
Threats the forlorn and wandering passenger;
And here their tender age might sutler peril,
But that by quick command from sovereign Jots
1 was despateh'd for their defence and guard:
And listen why; for 1 will tell you now
What never yet was heard in tale or song,
From old or modern bard, in hall or bower.
Bacehus, that first from out the purple grape
rush'd the sweet poison of misused wine,
After the Tuscan mariners transfoin,'d.
Coasting the Tyrrhene shore, as the winds listed,
On Ciree's island fell: (who knows not Ciree,
The daughter of the Sun, whose charmed cup
Whoever tasted, loot his upright shape,
And downward fell inln a grovelmg swine ?)
Thia nymph, that gazed upon his clustering locks
With ivy berries wreatVd, and his blithe youth,
Had by him, ere he parted thence, a son
Much like his father, but his mother more,
Whom therefore she brought up, and Comus
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 imbower'd,
Excels his mother at her mighty art,
Offering to every weary traveller
His orient liquor in a erystal glass,
To quench the drouth of Phcebus; which as they
(For most do taste through foml intemperate thirst) Soon as the potion works, their human countenance,
The express resemblance of the gods, is chang'd
Into some brutish form of wolf, or bear,
Or ounce, or tiger, hog, or bearded goat,
All other parts remaining as they were;
And they, so perfect is their misery,
Not once pereeive their foul disfigurement,
But boast themselves more comely than before:
And all their friends and native home forget,
To roll with pleasure in a sensual sty.
Therefore when any, favour'd of high Jove,
Chances to pass through this adventurous glade,
Swill as the sparkle of a glancing star
I shoot from heaven, to give him sale convoy,
As now I do: but first I must put off
These my sky robes spun out of Iris' woof,
A nd take the weeds and likeness of a swain
That to the service of this house belongs,
Who with his soft pipe, and smooth-dittied song,
Well knows to still the wild winds when they roar,
And hush the waving woods; nor of less faith,
And in this office of his mountain wateh
Likeliest, and nearest to the present aid
Of this oecasion. But I hear the tr> ad
Of hateful steps; I must be viewless now.
\nnus enters with a inarming-rod in one hand, hla e!*w. In the other; with Mm a rou: of monsters, headed like sundry wrts of wild bea•te, hul otherwise like men and womef, their appiirel glistering; ihey come in making a riotous Urf! unruly noise, with torehes in their nanda
The star that bids the shepherd fold, -
Now the top of heaven doth hold;
And the gilded car of day
Hi s glowing axle doth allay
In the steep Atlantic stream;
And the slope sun his upward beam
Shoots against his dusky pole,
Pacing toward the other goal
Of his chamber in the East.
Meanwhile weleome Joy, and Feast,
Midnight Shout and Revelry,
Tipsy Dance, and Jollity.
Braid your locks with rosy twine,
Dropping odours, dropping wine.
Rigour now is gone to bed,
And Advice with serupulous head.
Strict Age and sour Severity,
With their grave saws, in slumber lis.
We, that are of purer fire,
Imitate the starry quire,
Who, in their nightly watehful spheres,
Lead in swift round the months and years.
The sounds and seas, with all their finny drove,
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,
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 daylight that makes sin,
Which these dun shades will ne'er report.
Hail, gotltless of noctural sport,
Dark-veil'd Cotytlo! to whom the seeret dame
Of midnight torehes burns; mysterious dame,
That ne'er art call'd, but when the dragon worn.
Of Stygian darkne>ts spits her thickest gloom,
And makes one blot of all the air;
Stay thy cloudy ebon chair,
Wherein thou rid'st with Hecat', and belrieml
Us thy vowed priests, till utmost end
Of all thy dues be done, and none left out;
Ere the babbling eastern scout,
The nice morn, on the Indian steep
From her cabined loop-hole peep,
And to the tell-tale sun desery
Our concealed solemnity.—
Come, knit hands, and beat the ground,
In a light fantastic round.
Break off, break off: I feel the different pace
Of some chaste footing near about this ground.
Run to your shrouds, within these brakes and treet;
Our number may affright: somc virgin, sure
(For so I can distinguish by my art)
Benighted in these woods. T^ow to my charms.
And to my wily trains; I shall, ere long
Be well stock'd with as fair a herd
About my mother Ciree. Thus I hurl
My dazzling spells into the spongy air,
Of power to ebtat the eye with blear illusion,
And give it false presentments, lest the place
And my quaint habits breed astonishment,
And put the damsel to suspicious flight;
Which must not be, for that's against my course:
I, under fair pretence of friendly ends,
And well placed words of glazing courtesy,
Baited with reasons not unplausible,
Wind mt- into the easy-hearted man,
And hug him into snares. When once her eye
Hath met the virtue of this magic dust,
I shall appear some harmless villager,
Whom tnrifl keeps up about his country gear.
But here she comes. I fairly step aside,
A ml hearken, if I may, her business here.
The Lady enters.
Lady. This way the noise was, if mine ear be
My bent guide now. Methought it was the sound
Of riot and ill managed merriment,
Such was the jocund flute, or gamesome pipe,
Stirs up among the loose, unlettered hinds;
When from their teeming flocks, and granges full,
In wanton dance they praise the bounteous Pan,
And thank the gods amiss. I should be loth
To meet the rudeness and swilled insolence
Of such late wassailers; yet O! where else,
Shall I inform my unacquainted feet,
In the blind mazes of this tangled wood?
My brothers, when they saw me wearied out
With this long way, resolving here to lodge,
Undrr the spreading favour of these pines,
Slept, as they said, to the next thicket side,
To bring me berries, or such cooling fruit
As the kind hospitable woods provide.
They left me then, when the gray-hooded Even,
Like a sad votarist in palmer's weed,
Rose from the hindmost wheels of Phoebus' wain:
But where they are, and why they came not back,
I- now the labour of my thoughts; 'tis likeliest
They had engaged their wandering steps too far;
And envious Darkness, ere they eould return,
Had stole them from me: else, O thievish Night,
Why should st thou, but for some felonious end,
In thy dark lantern thus close up the stars,
That Nature hung in heaven, and.filled their lamps
With everlasting oil, to give due light
To the misled and lonely traveller?
This is the place, as well as I may guess,'
Whence even now the tumult of loud mirth
Was rife, and perfect in my listening ear;
Yi-t nought but single darkness do I find.
What might this be? A thousand fantasies
Begm to throng into my memory,
Of callmg shapes, and beckoning shadows dire,
And airy tongues, that syllable men's names
On sands, and shores, and desert wildernesses.
These thoughts may startle well, but not astound.
The virtuous mind, that ever walks attended
By a strong siding champion, Conscience.
0 weleome, pure ey'd Faith, white handed Hope. Thou hovering angel, girt with golden wings And thou, unblemish'd form of Chastity!
I see ye visibly, and now believe
That He, the Supreme Good, to whom all thingt
Are but as slavish officers of vengeance,
Would send a glistening guardian, if need were,
To keep my life and honour unassail'd.
Was I deceiv'd, or did a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night?
I did not err: there does a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night,
And casts a gleam over this tufted grove.
I can not halloo to my brothers, hut
Such noise as I can make, to be heard farthest,
I'll venture; for my new-enlivened spirits
Prompt me; and they, perhaps, are not far off.
Sweet Echo, sweetest nymph, that liv'st, un- m.
Within thy airy shell,
By olow Meander's margent green,
And in the violet-embroider'd vale,
Where the love-lorn nightingale
Nightly to thee her sad song mourneth well;
Canst thou not tell me of a gentle pair,
That likest thy Nareissus arel
O, if thou have
Hid them in some flowery cave,
Tell me but where,
Sweet queen of parley, daughter of the spheres So may'st thou be translated to the skies, And give resounding grace to all Heaven's bar monies.
Comus. Can any mortal mixture of earth's
Breathe such divine, enchanting ravishment?
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,
At every fall smoothing the raven down
Of darkness, till it smiled! I have oft heard
My mother Ciree, with the Syrens throe,
Amidst the*flowery-kirtled Naiades,
Culling their potent herbs and baleful drags;
Who, as they sung, would take the prisoned:
And lap it in Elysium: Scylla wept,
And chid her barking waves into attention,
And fell Charybdis murmured soft applause:
Yet they in pleasing slumtnt lull'd the sense
And in sweet madness robbed it of itself:
But such .> saered and home-felt delight,
Such sober certainty of waking bliss,
I never heard till now. I'll speak to her,
Ami she shall be my queen. Hail, foreign wonder!
Whom certain these rough shades did never breed,
Unless the goddess that, in rural shrine,
Dwell'st here with Pan, or Sylvan, by bleu'd song
Forbidding every bleak, unkindly fog
To touch the prosperous growth of this tall wood.
Lad. Nay, gentle-shepherd, ill is lost that praise, That i s addressed to unattending ears: Nut any boast of skill, but extreme shift How to regain my sever'd company, Compelled me to awake the courteous Echo, To give me answer from her mossy couch.
Com. What chance, good lady, hath bereft you thus?
Lad. Dim darkness and this leafy labyrinth.
Com. Could that divide you from near ushering guides?
l.id They left me weary on a grassy turf.
Com. By falsehood, or discourtesy, or why?
Lad. To seek i' the valley some cool friendly spring.
Cum. And left your I'.ur side all unguarded, Lady?
Lad. They were but twain, and purpos'd quick return.
Com. Perhaps forestalling night prevented them.
Lad. How easy my misfortune is to hit!
Com. Imports their loss, beside the present need?
Lad. No less than if I should my brothers lose.
Com. Were they of manly prime, or youthful bloom?
had. As smooth as Hebe's their unrazor'd lips.
Com. Two such I saw, what time the labour'd ox In bis loose traces from the furrow came, And the swinked hedger at his supper sat. I saw them under a grern mantling vine, That erawls 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 ereatures of the element, That in the colours of the rainbow live, And play i' the plighted 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.
Lad. Gentle villager, What readiest way would bring me to tlmt placet
Com. Due west it rises from this shrubby point.
Lad. To find out that, good shepherd, I suppose, In such a Kant allowance of star-light, Would overtask the best land-pilot's art, Without the sure guess of well-practised feet.
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 attendance be yet lodged,
Or shroud within these limits, I shall know
Ere morrow wake, or the low-roosted lark
From her thatehed pallet rouse; if otherwise,
I can conduct you, Lady, to a low
But loyal cottage, where you may be safe
Till further quest.
Lad. Shepherd I take thy word,
And trust thy honest offered courtesy,
Which oft is sooner found in lowly sheds
With smoky rafters, than in tapestry halls
In courts of princes, where it first was named,
And yet is most pretended: in a place
Less warranted than this, or less secure,
I can not be, that I should fear to change it,—
Eye me, blessed Providence, and square my trial
To my proportioned strength.—Shepherd, lead on.
Enter the Two Brothers.
El. Br. Unmuffle, ye faint stars; and thou, fat
That wont'st to love the traveller's benison,
Stoop thy pale visage through an ambe' cloud,
And disinherit Chaos, that reigns here
In double night of darkness and of shades-,
Or, if your influence be quite dammed up
With black usurping mists, some gentler taper,
Through a rush-candle from the wicker hole
Of some clay habitation, visit us
With thy long-levelled rule of streaming light,
And thon shall l« our star of Aready,
Or Tyrian Cynosure.
Sec. Br. Or, if our eyes
Be barred that happiness, might we but hear
The folded flocks penned in their wattled cotes,
Or sound of pastoral reed with oaten stops,
Or whistle from the lodge, or village cock
Count the night watehes to his feathery dames,
'Twould be some solace yet, some little cheering,
In this close dungeon of innumerous boughs.
But, O that hapless virgin, or lost Sister!
Where may she wander now, whither betake her
From the chill dew, among rude burs and thistles!
Perhaps some cold bank is her bolster now,
Or 'gainst the rugged bark of some broad elm
Leans her unpillow'd head, fraught with sad fear*.
What, if in wild amazement and aflright?
Or, while we speak, within the direful gn»p
Of savage hunger, w of savage heat 1
El. Br. Peace, Brother; be not over exquuite To cast the fashion of uncertain evils: 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 avoidl Or if they be but false alarms of fear, How bitter is such self-delusion i
I do not think my Sister so to sock,
Or so unprincipled in Virtue's book,
And the sweet peace that goodness bosoms ever,
As that the single want of light and noiae
(Not being in danger, as I trust she is not)
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
Were in the flat sea sunk. And Wisdom's self
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 ruffled, and sometimes impaired.
He, that has light within his own clear breast,
May sit i' the centre, and enjoy bright day:
But he, that hides a dark soul and foul thoughts,
Benighted walks under the mid-day sun;
Himself is hu own dungeon.
Sec. Br. 'Tis most true,
That musing Meditation most affects
The pensive seerecy 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 hooks, or his beads, or maple dish,
Or do his gray hairs any violence?
But Beauty, like the fair Hesperian tree
Laden with blooming gold, had need the guard
Of dragon-wateh with unenchanted eye,
To save her blossoms, and defend her fruit,
From the r.uh hand of bold Incontinence.
Vou may as well spread out the unsunn'd heaps
Of misers' treasure by an outlaw's den,
And tell me it is safe, as bid me hope
Danger with wink on Opportunity,
And let a single helpless maiden pass
Uninjured in this wild surrounding waste.
Of night, or loneliness, it recks me not;
f fear the dread event s that dog them both,
Lest some ill-greeting touch attempt the person
Of our unowned Sister.
El. Br. I do not, Brother,
Infer, as if I thought my Sister's state
Secure, without all doubt or controversy;
Vet, where an equal 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 Ins a hidden strength
Which you remember not.
See. Hr. What hidden strength,
Ur.less the strength of Heaven, if you mean that?
El. Br. I mean that too, but yet a hidden
Which, if Heaven gave it, may he termed her own: Tis Chastity, my Brother, Chastity;
She, that has that, is clad in complete stoel;
And, like a quivered Nymph with arrows keen,
May trace huge forests, and unharUiured heaths,
Infamous hills, and sandy perilous wilds;
Where, through the saered rays of Chastity,
No savage fieree, bandit, or mountaineer,
Will dare to soil her virgin purity;
Yea there, where Tery Desolation dwells,
By grots, and caverns shagged with horrid shades,
She may pass on wjth unblenched majt-sly;
Be it not done in pride, or in presumption.
Some say, no evil tiling that walks by night
In fog or fire, by lakS or moorish fen,
Blue meagre hag, or stubborn unlaid ehiwt
That breaks his magic chains at curfew tune,
No goblin, or swart fairy of the mine.
Hath hurtful power o'er true virginity.
Do ye believe me yet, or shall I call
Antiquity from the old schools of Gre/w
To testify the arms of Chastity?
Hence had the huntress Dian her dread bow,
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
Fear'd her stern frown, and she was queen o' tcs
What was that snaky-headed Gorgon shield,
That wise Minerva wore, unconquered virgin,
Wherewith she freezed her foes to congealed stone,
But rigid looks of chaste austerity,
And noble grace, that dashed brute violence
With sudden adoration and blank awe?
So dear to Heaven is saintly Chastity,
That, when a soul is found sincerely so,
A thousand liveried Angels lackey her,
Driving far off each thing of sin and guilt;
And, in clear dream aml solemn vision,
Tell her of things that no gross ear can hear;
Till oft converse with heavenly habitants
Begin to cast a beam on the outward shape,
The unpolluted temple of the mind,
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,
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 sepulehres
Lingering, and sitting by a new-made grave,
As loath to leave the body that it lov'd,
And link'd itself by carnal sensuality
To a degenerate and degraded stale.
Sec. Br. How charming is divine Phdoscphy! Not harsh, and erabbed, as dull fools suppose, 'But musical as is Apollo's lute;