« PreviousContinue »
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 509
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?
El.Bro.To tell thee sadly, Shepherd, without blame, Or our neglect, we lost her as we came. 515
Spir. Ay me unhappy! then my fears are true. Eld. Bro.What fears, good Thyrsis? Prethee briefly
Spir. I'll tell ye; 'tis not vain or fabulous, (shew. (Though so esteem’d by shallow ignorance) 519 What the fage poets, taught by th'heav'nly Muse, Story'd of old in high immortal verse, Of dire chimera's and inchanted iles, And rifted rocks whose entrance leads to Hell; For such there be, but unbelief is blind.
Within the navel of this hideous wood, 525 Immur'd in cypress shades a forcerer 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, 530 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, unmolding reason's mintage
Character'd in the face; this have I learnt 535
Tending my flocks hard by i’th’hill crofts,
That brow this bottom glade, whence night by night
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 th’ unwary sense
Of them that pass unweeting by the way.
This evening late, by then the chewing flocks 545
Had ta’en their supper on the favory 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, 550
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; 555
At which I ceas’d, and lisen'd'them a while,
Till an unusual stop of sudden silence
Gave respit to the drowsy flighted steeds,
That draw the litter of close-curtain'd sleep;
At last a soft and solemn breathing sound 560.
Rofe like a steam of rich distillid 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, 565
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 honor'd Lady, your dear Sister.
Amaz'd I stood, harrow'd with grief and fear, 570.
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, 575
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, 580
Supposing him some neighbour villager.
Longer I durft not stay, but soon I guess’d
Ye were the two she meant; with that I sprung
Into swift flight, till I had found you here,
But further know I not. 2. Bro. O night and shades,
How are ye join'd with Hell in triple knot, 586
Against th' unarmed weakness of one virgin.
Alone, and helpless! Is this the confidence
You gave me, Brother? El. Bro. Yes, and keep it still,
Lean on it safely; not a period
Shall be unsaid for me: against the threats Of malice or of sorcery, or that power Which erring men call Chance, this I hold firm, Virtue may be assail'd, but never hurt, Surpris'd by unjust force, but not inthrall’d; 595 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,
600 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. Butcome let's on. Against th' opposing will and arm of Heaven 605 May never this just sword be lifted up; But for that damn'd magician, let him be girt. With all the grisly legions that troop Under the footy flag of Acheron, : 609 Harpyes and Hydra's, or all the monstrous forms 'Twixt Africa and Ind, I'll find him out, 2. And force him to restore his purchase back, i Or drag him by the curls to a foul death, .. Curs’d as his life.
Spir. Alas! good ventrous Youth, ... 615 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 unthred thy joints, 620
And crumble all thy sinews.
Eld. Bro. Why prethee, Shepherd,
How durs thou then thyself approach fo near,
As to make this relation?
Spir. Care and utmost shifts
How to secure the Lady from surprisal,
Brought to my mind a certain shepherd lad,
Of small regard to see to, yet well skill'd
In every virtuous plant and healing herb,
That spreads her verdant leaf to th' morning ray:
He lov'd me well, and oft would beg me sing, 631
Which when I did, he on the tender grass
Would fit, and hearken ev'n to exstasy,
And in requital ope his leathern scrip,
And show me simples of a thousand names, 635
Telling their strange and vigorous faculties:
Amongst the rest a small unsightly root,
But of divine effect, he cull’d me out;
The leaf was darkish, and had prickles on it,
But in another country, as he said,
640 Bore a bright golden flow'r, but not in this foil : Unknown, and like esteem'd, and the dull swain Treads on it daily with his clouted shoon; And yet more med’cinal is it than that Moly That Hermes once to wise Ulysses gave; He call’d it Hæmony, and gave it me,