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"You sun-burnt sicklemen, of August weary,
Come hither from the furrow, and be merry;
Make holy-day: your rye-straw hats put on,
And these fresh nymphs encounter every one
In country footing."
Where is this stage-direction, "Enter certain Reapers, properly habited: they join with the nymphs in a graceful dance." The Tempest probably did not appear before the year 1612.
That Milton had his eye on this ancient drama, which might have been the favourite of his early youth, perhaps it may be at least affirmed with as much credibility, as that he conceived the Paradise Lost, from seeing a Mystery at Florence, written by Andreini a Florentine in 1617, entitled Adamo.
In the mean time it must be confessed, that Milton's magician Comus, with his cup and wand, is ultimately founded on the fable of Circe. The effects of both characters are much the same, They are both to be opposed at first with force and violence. Circe is subdued by the virtues of the herb moly which Mercury gives to Ulysses, and Comus by the plant haemony which the Spirit gives to the two Brothers. About the year 1615, a mask called the Inner Temple Masque, written by William Browne, author of Britannia's Pastorals, which I have frequently cited, was presented by the students of the Inner Temple. See Notes on Com. v. 252, 636, 659. It has been lately printed from a manuscript in the library of Emanuel College: but I have been informed, that a few copies were printed soon after the presentation. It was formed on the story of Circe, and perhaps might have suggested some few hints to Milton. I will give some proofs of parallelism as we go along.
The genius of the best poets is often determined, if not directed, by circumstance and accident. It is natural, that even so original a writer as Milton should have been biassed by the reigning poetry of the day, by the composition most in fashion, and by subjects recently brought forward, but soon giving way to others, and almost as soon totally neglected and forgotten.
COMUS, with his crew.
SABRINA, the Nymph.
The chief persons, who presented, were
The lord Brackley.
Mr. Thomas Egerton his brother.
The lady Alice Egerton.
The first Scene discovers a wild wood. The Attendant Spirit descends or enters.
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 30
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, nurs'd in princely lore,
Are coming to attend their father's state,
And new-entrusted sceptre: but their way
Lies through the perplex'd paths of this drear
The nodding horrour of whose shady brows
Threats the forlorn and wandering passenger;
And here their tender age might suffer peril, 40
But that by quick command from sovran Jove
I was dispatch'd for their defence and guard :
And listen why; for I will tell you now
What never yet was heard in tale or song,
From old or modern bard, in hall or bower.
Bacchus, that first from out the purple grape
Crush'd the sweet poison of misused wine,
After the Tuscan mariners transform'd,
THE ATTENDANT SPIRIT, afterwards in the habit Coasting the Tyrrhene shore, as the winds listed,
On Circe's island fell: (Who knows not Circe,50
The daughter of the Sun, whose charmed cup
Whoever tasted, lost his upright shape,
And downward fell into a groveling swine?)
This nymph, that gaz'd upon his clustering locks
With ivy berries wreath'd, 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
BEFORE the starry threshold of Jove's court
My mansion is, where those immortal shapes
Of bright aëreal spirits live inspher'd
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
Confin'd and pester'd in this pin-fold here,
Strive to keep up a frail and feverish being,
Unmindful of the crown that Virtue gives,
After this mortal change, to her true servants, 10
Amongst the enthron'd 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,
I 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 rule of all the sea-girt isles,
That, like to rich and various gems, inlay
The unadorned bosom of the deep:
Which he, to grace his tributary gods,
By course commits to several government,
And gives them leave to wear their sapphire
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 crystal glass,
To quench the drought of Phoebus; which asthey | Venus now wakes, and wakens love.
Come, let us our rites begin;
'Tis only day-light that makes sin,
Which these dun shades will ne'er report.-
Hail, goddess of nocturnal sport,
(For most do taste through fond intemperate Soon as the potion works, their human counte
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 perceive 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 stye.
Therefore when any, favour'd of high Jove,
Chances to pass through this adventurous glade,
Swift as the sparkle of a glancing star
I shoot from Heaven, to give him safe convoy,
As now I do: but first I must put off
These my sky-robes spun out of Iris' woof,
And 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 watch
Likeliest, and nearest to the present aid
Of this occasion. But I hear the tread
Of hateful steps; I must be viewless now.
The star, that bids the shepherd fold,
Now the top of Heaven doth hold;
And the gilded car of day
His glowing axle doth allay
In the steep Atlantic stream;
And the slope Sun his upward beam
Shoots against the dusky pole,
Pacing towards the other goal
Of his chamber in the east.
Mean while welcome 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 scrupulous head.
Strict Age and sour Severity,
With their grave saws, in slumber lie.
We, that are of purer fire,
Imitate the starry quire,
COMUS enters with a charming-rod in one hand, his glass in the other; with him a rout of monsters, headed like sundry sorts of wild beasts, but otherwise like men and women, their apparel glistering; they come in making a riotous and unruly noise, with torches in their hands.
Who, in their nightly watchful spheres,
Lead in swift round the months and years.
The sounds and scas, with a'l 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 ha h night to do with sleep?
Night hath better sweets to prove,
Dark-veil'd Cotytto! to whom the secret flame
Of midnight torches burns; mysterious dame,
That ne'er art call'd, but when the dragon woo
Of Stygian darkness spets her thickest gloom,
And makes one blot of all the air;
Stay the cloudy ebon chair,
Wherein thou rid'st with Hecat', and befriend
Us thy vow'd 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 cabin'd loop-hole peep,
And to the tell-tale Sun descry
Our conceal'd 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
Our number may affright: some virgin sure
(For so I can distinguish by mine art)
Benighted in these woods. Now to my charms,
And to my wily trains: I shall ere long
Be well-stock'd with as fair a herd as graz'd
About my mother Circe. Thus I hurl
My dazzling spells into the spungy air,
Of power to cheat 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:
under fair pretence of friendly ends,
And well-plac'd words of glozing courtesy
Baited with reasons not unplausible,
Wind me 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 thrift keeps up about his country gear.
But here she comes; I fairly step aside,
And hearken, if I may, her business here.
110 Such as the jocund flute, or gamesome pipe,
Stirs up among the loose unletter'd hinds;
When for 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 swill'd insolence,
Of such late wassailers; yet O! where else
Shall I inform my unacquainted feet
the blind mazes of this tangled wood?
My brothers, when they saw me wearied out
With this long way, resolving here to lodge
Under the spreading favour of these pines,
Stept, as they said, to the uext thicket side,
To bring me berries, or such cooling fruit
The Lady enters.
This way the noise was, if mine ear be true, 170
My best guide now: methought it was the sound
Of riot and ill-manag'd merriment,
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 bindmost wheels of Phoebus' wain.
But where they are, and why they came not back,
Is now the labour of my thoughts; 'tis likeliest
They had engag'd their wandering steps too far;
And envious darkness, ere they could return,
Had stole them from me: else, Othievish 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 fill'd their
With everlasting oil, to give due light [lamps
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;
Yet nought but single darkness do I find.
What this might be? A thousand fantasies
Begin to throng into my memory,
Of calling shapes, and beckoning shadows dire,
And aery tongues, that syllable mens names 208
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.-
O welcome 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 things
Are but as slavish officers of vengeance,
Would send a glistering 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 cannot halloo to my brothers, but
Such noise as I can make to be heard farthest
I'll venture; for my new-enliven'd spirits
Prompt me; and they perhaps are not far off.
At every fall smoothing the raven-down
Of darkness, till it smil'd! I have oft heard
My mother Circe with the Syrens three,
Amidst the flowery-kirtled Naiades,
Culling their potent herbs and baleful drugs;
Who, as they sung, would take the prison'd soul,
And lap it in Elysium: Scylla wept,
And chid her barking waves into attention,
And fell Charybdis murmur'd soft applause:
Yet they in pleasing slumber lull'd the sense,
And in sweet madness robb'd it of itself;
But such a sacred and home-felt delight,
Such sober certainty of waking bliss,
I never heard till now.-I'll speak to her,
And 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 blest song
Forbidding every bleak unkindly fog
To touch the prosperous growth of this tall wood,
Lad. Nay, gentle shepherd, ill is lost that
That is address'd to unattending ears; [praise
Not any boast of skill, but extreme shift
How to regain my sever'd company,
Compell'd me to awake the courteous Echo 275
To give me answer from her mossy couch.
Com. What chance, good lady, hath bereft
Lad. Dim darkness, and this leafy labyrinth.
Com. Could that divide you from near-ushering
Lad. 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.
Com. And left your fair side all unguarded, lady? Lad. They were but twain, and purpos'd quick
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?
Lad. As smooth as Hebe's their unrazor'd lips.
Com. Two such I saw, what time the labour'd or
In his loose traces from the furrow came,
And the swink'd hedger at his supper sat;
I saw them under a green mantling vine,
That crawls 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 faery vision
Of some gay creatures of the element,
That in the colours of the rainbow live,
And play i' the plighted clouds. I was aw-struck,
And, as I past, I worshipt; if those you seek,
It were a journey like the path to Heaven,
To help you find them.
Gentle villager, What readiest way would bring me to that place? Com. Due west it rises from this shrubby point. Lad. To find out that, good shepherd, Lsuppose, In such a scant allowance of star-light, Would overtask the best land-pilot's art, Without the sure guess of well-practis'd feet. 310 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 attendants be yet lodg'd,
Or shroud within these limits, I shall know
Ere morrow wake, or the low roosted lark
From her thatch'd pallet rouse; if otherwise,
Ican conduct you, lady, to a low,
But loyal cottage, where you may be safe
Till further quest.
315 She plumes her feathers, and lets grow her wings,
That in the various bustle of resort
Were all-to ruffled, and sometimes impair'd.
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 his own dungeon.
Shepherd, I take thy word
And trust thy honest offer'd courtesy,
Which oft is sooner found in lowly sheds
That musing Meditation most affects
The pensive secrecy of desert cell,
With smoky rafters, than in tap'stry halls
In courts of princes, where it first was nam'd 325 Far from the cheerful haunt of men and herds,
And sits as safe as in a senate-house;
For who would rob a hermit of his weeds,
His few books, 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-watch, with unenchanted eye, 395
To save her blossoms, and defend her fruit, 1
And yet is most pretended: in a place
Less warranted than this, or less secure,
I cannot be, that I should fear to change it.-
Eye me, blest Providence, and square my trial
To my proportion'd strength.-Shepherd, lead
Or Tyrian Cynosure.
Enter The TWO BROTHERS.
El. Br. Unmuffle, ye faint stars; and thou, fair From the rash hand of bold Incontinence.
You 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 will wink on Opportunity,
And let a single helpless maiden pass
Uninjur'd in this wild surrounding waste.
Of night, or loneliness, it recks me not;
I fear the dread events that dog them both, 405
Lest some ill-greeting touch attempt the
Of our unowned sister,
That wont'st to love the traveller's benison,
Stoop thy pale visage through an amber cloud,
And disinherit Chaos, that reigns here
In double night of darkness and of shades;
Or, if your influence be quite damm'd up
With black usurping mists, some gentle taper,
Though a rush-candle from the wicker hole
Of some clay habitation, visit us
With thy long-levell'd rule of streaming light;
And thou shalt be our star of Arcady,
Or, if our eyes
Be barr'd that happiness, might we but hear
The folded flocks penn'd in their wattled cotes,
Or sound of pastoral reed with oaten stops,
Or whistle from the lodge, or village cock
Count the night watches to his feathery dames,
"Twould be some solace yet, some little cheering,
In this close dungeon of innumerous boughs.
But, O that hapless virgin, cur 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
What, if in wild amazement and affright?
Or, while we speak, within the direful grasp
Of savage hunger, or of savage heat?
El. Br. Peace, brother: be not over-exquisite
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 avoid?
Or, if they be but false alarms of fear,
How bitter is such self-delusion!
I do not think my sister so to seek,
Or so unprincipled in Virtue's book,
And the sweet peace that goodness bosoms ever,
As that the single want of light and noise
(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,
I do not, brother,
Infer, as if I thought my sister's state
Secure, without all doubt or controversy;
Yet, where an equal poise of hope and fear
Does arbitrate the 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 has a hidden strength, 415
Which you remember not.
Unless the strength of Heaven, if you mneau
What hidden strength,
El. Br. I mean that too, but yet a hidden
Which, if Heaven gave it, may be term'd her
'Tis Chastity, my brother, Chastity:
She, that has that, is clad in complete steel;
And, like a quiver'd nymph with arrows keen,
May trace huge forests, and unharbour'd heaths,
Infamous hills, and sandy perilous wilds;
Where, through the sacred rays of Chastity,425
No savage fierce, bandite, or mountaineer,
Will dare to soil her virgin purity:
Yea there, where very Desolation dwells,
By grots and caverns shagg'd with horrid shades,
She may pass on with unblench'd majesty,
Be it not done in pride, or in presumption.
Some say, no evil thing that walks by night
In fog or fire, by lake or moorish fen,
Blue meager hag, or stubborn unlaid ghost
No goblin, or swart faery of the mine,
That breaks his magic chains at Curfeu time,
Hath hurtful power o'er true virginity.
Do ye believe me yet, or shall I call
Antiquity from the old schools of Greece
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' the
What was that snaky-headed Gorgon shield,
That wise Minerva wore, unconquer'd virgin,
Wherewith she freez'd her foes to congeal'd
But rigid looks of chaste auterity, And noble grace, that dash'd 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 and 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, 460 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 sepulchres Lingering, and sitting by a new made grave, As loth to leave the body that it lov'd, And link'd itself by carnal sensuality To a degenerate and degraded state. Sec. Br. How charming is divine philosophy! Not harsh, and crabbed, as dull fools suppose, But musical as is Apollo's lute,
And a perpetual feast of nectar'd sweets,
Where no crude surfeit reigns.
List, list; I hear
Some far off halloo break the silent air.
Sec. B. Methought so too; what should it be?
Either some one like us night-founder'd here,
Or else some neighbour woodma or, at worst,
Some roving robber, calling to his fellows.
Sec. B. Heaven keep my sister. Again, again,
I'll halloo :
Best draw, and stand upon our guard. El. B. If he be friendly, he comes well; if not, Defence is a good cause, and Heaven be for us. [Enter the Attendant Spirit, habited like a shepherd.]
That halloo I should know; what are you? speak; 490 Come not too near, you fall on iron stakes else. Spir. What voice is that? my young lord? speak again.
Sec. B. O brother, 'tis my father's shepherd,
El. B. 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 ram
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? 500
Spir. 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?
El. B. To tell thee sadly, shepherd, without
Or our neglect, we lost her as we came. 510
Spir. Ay me unhappy! then my fears are true.
El. B. What fears, good Thyrsis? Pr'ythee
Spir. I'll tell ye; 'tis not vain or fabulous,
(Though so esteem'd by shallow ignorance,)
What the sage poets, taught by the heavenly
Storied of old in high immortal verse, [Muse,
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, [poison With many murmurs mix'd, whose pleasing 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 550 Tending my flocks hard by i' the hilly 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 the unwary sense
Of them that pass unweeting by the way.
This evening late, by then the chewing flocks
Had ta'en their supper on the savoury herb 541
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; 550
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 close-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,