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[Enter the Aitendant Spirit, habited like a Shepherd.]
That halloo 1 should know; what are you? speak; Come not too near, you fall on iron stakes else.
Spirit. What voice is that? my young Lord? speak again.
Second Brother. O Brother, 'tis my father's shepherd, sure,
Elder Brother. Thyrsis? Whose artful strains have oft delay'd The huddling brook to hear his madrigal, And sweeten'd every muskrose of the dale? How cam'st thou here, good swain? hath any nun Slipt from the fold, or young kid lost his dam, Or straggling wether the pent flock forsook? How could'st thou find this dark sequester'd nook?
Spirit. O my lov'd master's heir, and his next joy, I came not here on such a trivial toy As a stray'd ewe, or to pursue the stealth Of pilfering wolf; not all the fleecy wealth, That doth enrich these downs, is worth a thought To this my errand, and the care it brought. But, O my virgin Lady, where is she? How chance she is not in your company?
Elder Brother. To tell thee sadly, Shepherd, without blame, Or our neglect, we lost her as we came.
Spirit Ay me unhappy! then my fears are true.
Elder Brother. What fears, good Thyrsis? Pr'ythee briefly shew.
Spirit. I'll tell ye; 'tis not vain or fabulous (Though so esteem'd by shallow ignorance,) What the sage poets, taught by the heavenly Muse, Storied of old in high immortal verse, Of dire chimeras, and enchanted isles, • And rifted rocks whose entrance leads to Hell; For such there be, but unbelief is blind.
Within the navel of this hideous wood,
Immur'd in cypress shades a sorcerer dwells,
Of Bacchus and of Circe born, great Comus,
Deep skill'd in all his mother's witcheries;
And here to every thirsty wanderer
By sly enticement gives his baneful cup,
With many murmurs mix'd, whose pleasing poison
The visage quite transforms of him that drinks,
And the inglorious likeness of a beast
Fixes instead, unmoulding reason's mintage
Character'd in the face: This have I learnt
Tending my flocks hard by i' the hilly crofts,
That brow this bottom-glade; whence night by
He and his monstrous rout are heard to howl,
Like stabled wolves, or tigers at their prey,
Doing abhorred rites to Hecate
In their obscured haunts of inmost bowers.
Yet have they many baits, and guileful spells,
To inveigle and invite the unwary sense
Of them that pass unweeting hy the way.
This evening late, by then the chewing flocks
Had tak'n their supper on the savoury herb
Of knot-grass dew-besprent, and were in fold,
I sat me down to watch upon a bank
With ivy canopied, and interwove
With flaunting honey-suckle, and began,
Wrapt in a pleasing fit of melancholy,
To meditate my rural minstrelsy,
Till Fancy had her fill; but, ere a close,
The wonted roar was up amidst the woods,
And fill'd the air with barbarous dissonance;
At which I ceas'd, and listen'd them a while,
Till an unusual stop of sudden silence
Gave respite to the drowsy frighted steeds,
That draw the litter of closc-curtain'd Sleep;
At last a soft and solemn-breathing sound
Rose like a steam of rich distill'd perfumes,
And stole upon the air, that even Silence
Was took ere she was ware, and wish'd she might
Deny her nature, and be never more,
Still, to be so displac'd. I was all ear,
And took in strains that might create a soul
Under the ribs of Death: but O! ere long,
Too well I did perceive it was the voice
Of my most honour'd Lady, your dear Sister.
Amaz'd I stood, harrow'd with grief and fear,
And, O 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, I found the place,
Where that damn'd wisard, 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 wish'd prey;
Who gently ask'd if he had seen such two,
Supposing him some neighbour villager.
Longer I durst not stay, but soon I guess'd
Ye where the two she meant ; with that I sprang
Into swift flight, till I had found you here;
But further know I not.
Second Brother. O night, and shades I
How are ye join'd with Hell in triple knot
Against the unarmed weakness of one virgin,
Alone, and helpless! Is this the confidence
fou gave me, Brother?
Elder Brother. Yes, and keep it still;
Lean on it safely; not a period
Shall be unsaid for me: Against the threats
Of malice, or for sorcery, or that power
Which erring Men call Chance, this I hold firm;—
Virtue may be assail'd, but never hurt,
Surpriz'd by unjust force, but not enthrall'd;
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
Gather'd like scum, and settled to itself,
It shall be in eternal restless change
Self-fed, and self-consum'd; If this fail,
The pillar'd firmament is rottenness,
And earth's base built on stubble. But come,
Against the opposing will and arm of Heaven
May never this just sword be lifted up!
But for that damn'd magician, let him be girt
With all the 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 return his purchase back,
Or drag him by the curls to a foul death,
Curs'd as his life.
Spirit. Alas! good venturous Youth,
I love thy courage yet, and bold emprise;
But here thy sword can do thee little stead;
Far other arms and other weapons must
Be those, that quell the might of hellish charms:
He with his bare wand can unthread thy joints,
And crumble all thy sinews.
Elder Brother. Why pr'ythee, Shepherd,
How durst. thou then thyself approach so near,