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Within the navel,1 of this hideous wood,
1 Depth, middle.
1 Both Spenser and Shakspeare use this word with the same accent as Milton has done here.
3 Besprent, i. e. sprinkled. "Knot-grass" is mentioned in Midsummer Night's Dream, iii. 7.
4 So the commentators have rightly restored, instead of "drowsyfrighted." Milton had in view Shakspeare, 2 Henry VI. act 4, sc. i.—
"And now loud howling wolves arouse the jades,
That draw the litter of close-curtained sleep;
At last a soft and solemn-breathing sound1
Hose like a steam of rich distilled perfumes,
And stole upon the air, that even Silence
Was took ere she was ware, and wished she might
Deny her nature, and be never more
Still to be so displaced. I was all ear,
And took in strains that might create a soul
Under the ribs of death :s but oh, ere long,
Too well I did perceive it was the voice
Of my most honoured lady, your dear sister.
Amazed I stood, harrowed with grief and fear,
And oh, poor hapless nightingale, thought I,
How sweet thou sing'st, how near the deadly snare!
Then down the lawns I ran with headlong haste,
Through paths and turnings often trod by day,
Till, guided by mine ear, 1 found the place,
Where that damned wizard, hid in sly disguise
(For so by certain signs I knew), had met
Already, ere my best speed could prevent,
The aidless innocent lady, his wished prey,
Who gently asked if he had seen such two,
Supposing him some neighbour villager.
Longer I durst not stay, but soon I guessed
Ye were the two she meant; with that I sprung
Into swift flight, till I had found you here,
But further know I not.
O night and shades, How are ye joined with Hell in triple knot Against the unarmed weakness of one virgin Alone, and helpless! Is this the confidence You gave me, brother?
Yes, and keep it still;
1 See the beginning of Twelfth Night.
s This grotesque comparison is taken from one of Alciat's emblems, where a soul in the figure of an infant is represented within the nbs of a skeleton, as in a prison.
Virtue may be assailed, but never hurt,1
Surprised by unjust force, but not enthralled;
Yea even that which mischief meant most harm,
Shall in the happy trial prove most glory:
But evil on itself shall back recoil,
And mix no more with goodness; when at last,
Gathered like scum, and settled to itself,
It shall be in eternal restless change,
Self-fed, and self-consumed :2 if this fail,
The pillared firmament3 is rottenness,
And earth's base built on stubble. But come, let's oa.
Against the opposing will and arm of Heaven
May never this just sword be lifted up!
But for that damned magician, let him be girt
With all the grisly legions that troop
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,
Or drag him by the curls to a foul death,
Cursed as his life.
Alas! good venturous youth,
Why prythee, shepherd,
Care and utmost shifts How to secure the lady from surprisal,
1 Milton seems to allude to the famous answer of the philosopher to a tyrant, who threatened him with death, "Thou mayst kill me, but thou canst not hurt me."—Thyer.
a This image is taken from the conjectures of astronomers concerning the dark spots which, from time to time, appear on the surface of the sun's body, and, after a while, disappear again, which they suppose Ut be the scum of that fiery matter, which first breeds it, and then breaks through and consumes it.— Warburton.
3 Cf. Paradise Regained, iv. 405.
Brought to my mind a certain shepherd lad,
Of small regard to see to, yet well skilled
In every virtuous plant and healing herb
That spreads her verdant leaf to the morning raj:
He loved me well,1 and oft would beg me sing,
Which when I did, he on the tender grass
Would sit, and hearken even to ecstasy,
And in requital ope his leathern scrip,
And show me simples of a thousand names,
Telling their strange and vigorous faculties:
Amongst the rest a small unsightly root,
But of divine effect, he culled 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 soi: :2
Unknown, and like esteemed, and the dull swain
Treads on it daily with his clouted shoon ;3
And yet more med'cinal is it than that moly4
That Hermes once to wise Ulysses gave;
He called it haemony, and gave it me,
And bade me keep it as of sovran use
'Gainst all enchantments, mildew, blast, or damp,
Or ghastly furies' apparition.
I pursed it up, but little reckoning made,
Till now that this extremity compelled:
But now I find it true; for by this means
I knew the foul enchanter, though disguised,
Entered the very lime-twigs 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,
And brandished blade, rush on him; break his glass,
1 This is perhalis a compliment to the author's friend and school fellow, Charles Deodati, who had been bred up a physician.
2 Seward would omit " not," and substitute " light esteemed." But as Newton observes, " unknown and like esteemed" may be taken as equivalent to unknown and unesteemed.
8 So in 2 Henry VI. act 4, sc. 3. Cade says:—
"We will not leave one lord, one gentleman;
4 See Pope's Homer's Odyssey, x. 361 sq. Pliny, Nat. Hist. rxir. 4, speaks of it highly; but its nature and properties are unknown. Thyer thinks it was the herb called splecnwort.
And shed the luscious liquor on the ground,
Thyrsis, lead on apace, I'll follow thee;
[The scene changes to a stately palace, set out with all manner of deliciousness; soft music, tables spread with all dainties. Comus appears with his rabble, and the Lady set in an enchanted chair, to whom he offers his glass, which she puts by, and goes about to rise.]
Nay, lady, sit; if I but wave this wand, Your nerves are all chained up in alabaster, And you a statue, or, as Daphne was, Root-bound, that fled Apollo.
Fool'. do not boast; Thou canst not touch the freedom of my mind With all thy c-harms, although this corporal rind Thou hast immanacled, while Heaven sees good.
Why are you vexed, lady? why do you frown?
1 An improvement on Romeo and Juliet, act i. sc. 3.
2 Prov. xxiii. 31 : "Look not thou to the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright."
8 See Pope's Odyssey, iv. 301, sq., and the Faerie Queen, iv. 3, 43.