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Drunk with idolatry, drunk with wine,
And fat regorged of bulls and goats,
Chanting their idol, and preferring
Before our living Dread who dwells
In Silo, his bright sanctuary:
Among them he a spirit of phrenzy sent,
Who hurt their minds,
And urged them on with mad desire
To call in haste for their destroyer;
They, only set on sport and play,
Through all Philistian bounds; to Israel
Honour hath left, and freedom, let but them
Find courage to lay hold on this occasion;
To himself and father's house eternal fame;
And, which is best and happiest yet, all this
With God not parted from him, as was feared,
But favouring and assisting to the end.
Nothing is here for tears, nothing to wail
Or knock the breast; no weakness, no contempt,
Dispraise, or blame; nothing but well and fair,
And what may quiet us in a death so noble.
Their own destruction to come speedy upon them. Let us go find the body, where it lies
So fond are mortal men,
Fallen into wrath divine,
As their own ruin on themselves to invite,
Insensate left, or to sense reprobate,
And with blindness internal struck.
2 Semichor. But he, though blind of sight,
Despised and thought extinguished quite
With inward eyes illuminated,
His fiery virtue roused
From under ashes into sudden flame,
And as an evening dragon came,
Assailant on the perched roosts
And nests in order ranged
Of tame villatic fowl; but as an eagle
His cloudless thunder bolted on their heads.
So virtue, given for lost,
Depressed, and overthrown, as seemed,
Like that self-begotten bird
In the Arabian woods embossed,
That no second knows nor third,
And lay ere while a holocaust,
From out her ashy womb now teemed,
Revives, reflourishes, then vigorous most
When most unactive deemed;
And, though her body die, her fame survives
A secular bird ages of lives.
Soaked in his enemies' blood; and from the stream
With lavers pure, and cleansing herbs, wash off
The clotted gore. I, with what speed the while,
(Gaza is not in plight to say us nay,)
Will send for all my kindred, all my friends,
To fetch him hence, and solemnly attend
With silent obsequy and funeral train,
Home to his father's house; there will I build him
A monument, and plant it round with shade
Of laurel evergreen, and branching palm,
With all his trophies hung, and acts enrolled
In copious legend, or sweet lyric song.
Thither shall all the valiant youth resort,
And from his memory inflame their breasts
To matchless valour, and adventures high:
The virgins also shall, on feastful days,
Visit his tomb with flowers; only bewailing
His lot unfortunate in nuptial choice,
From whence captivity and loss of eyes.
Chor. All is best, though we oft doubt,
What the unsearchable dispose
Of highest Wisdom brings about,
And ever best found in the close.
Oft he seems to hide his face,
But unexpectedly returns,
And to his faithful champion hath in place
Man. Come, come; no time for lamentation Bore witness gloriously; whence Gaza mourns,
Nor much more cause; Samson hath quit himself
Like Samson, and heroicly hath finished
A life heroic: on his enemies
Fully revenged, hath left them years of mourning,
And lamentation to the sons of Caphtor
And all that band them to resist
His uncontrollable intent:
His servants he, with new acquist
Of true experience, from this great event
With peace and consolation hath dismissed
And calm of mind all passion spent.
PRESENTED AT LUDLOW CASTLE, 1643, BEFORE
JOHN, EARL OF BRIDGEWATER,
* TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
JOHN LORD VISCOUNT BRACKLEY,†
Son and Heir-Apparent to the Earl of Bridgewater, &c.
THIS poem, which received its first occasion of
birth from yourself and others of your noble family,
and much honour from your own person in the
performance, now returns again to make a final
dedication of itself to you. Although not openly
acknowledged by the author, yet it is a legitimate
offspring, 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
fair hopes, and rare endowments of your much pro-
mising youth, which give a full assurance, to all
that know you, of a future excellence. Live,
sweet Lord, to be the honour of your name, and
receive 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 repre-
sentation your attendant Thyrsis, so now in all
real expression, your faithful and most humble
The Attendant Spirit, afterwards in the habit of Thyrsis.
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.
BEFORE the starry threshold of Jove's court
My mansion is, where those immortal shapes
• This is the dedication to Lawes's edition of the Mask, 1637.
†The first Brother in the Mask. Warton.
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
Confined 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,
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,
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 unadorn'd 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
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: but their way
Lies through the perplex'd paths of this drear
The nodding horror of whose shady brows
Threats the forlorn and wandering passenger;
And here their tender age might suffer peril,
But that by quick command from sovereign Jove
I was despatch'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,
It never appeared under Milton's name, till the year 1645. After the Tuscan mariners transform'd.
Coasting the Tyrrhene shore, as the winds listed, | In the steep Atlantic stream;
On Circe's island fell: (who knows not Circe,
The daughter of the Sun, whose charmed cup
Whoever tasted, lost his upright shape,
And downward fell into a groveling swine?)
This nymph, that gazed 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
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,
And the slope sun his upward beam
Shoots against his dusky pole,
Pacing toward the other goal
Of his chamber in the East.
Meanwhile 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,
Who, in their nightly watchful spheres,
Lead in swift round the months and years.
To quench the drouth of Phoebus; which as they The sounds and seas, with all their finny drove, taste,
(For most do taste through fond intemperate thirst) 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 sty.
Therefore when any, favour'd of high Jove,
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 trin,
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, goddess of noctural sport,
Dark-veil'd Cotytto! to whom the secret flame
Chances to pass through this adventurous glade,Of midnight torches burns; mysterious dame,
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.
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.
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
That ne'er art call'd, but when the dragon womt
Of Stygian darkness spits her thickest gloom,
And makes one blot of all the air;
Stay thy cloudy ebon chair,
Wherein thou rid'st with Hecat', and befriend
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 descry
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 trees;
Our number may affright: some virgin, sure,
(For so I can distinguish by my 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 spongy 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:
1, under fair pretence of friendly ends,
And well placed 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 tarift keeps up about his country gear.
But here she comes. I fairly step aside,
And hearken, if I may, her business here.
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!
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 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, but
Lady. This way the noise was, if mine ear be Such noise as I can make, to be heard farthest,
I'll venture; for my new-enlivened spirits
My best guide now. Methought it was the sound Prompt me; and they, perhaps, are not far off.
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,
Under the spreading favour of these pines,
Stept, 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,
Is now the labour of my thoughts; 'tis likeliest
They had engaged their wandering steps too far;
And envious Darkness, ere they could 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;
Yet nought but single darkness do I find.
What might this be? A thousand fantasies
Begin to throng into my memory,
Of calling shapes, and beckoning shadows dire,
And airy tongues, that syllable men's names
Sweet Echo, sweetest nymph, that liv'st, unseen,
Within thy airy shell,
By slow 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 Narcissus are?
Hid them in some flowery cave,
Tell me but where,
Sweet queen of parley, daughter of the sphere!
So may'st thou be translated to the skies,
And give resounding grace to all Heaven's har
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 Circe, with the Syrens three,
Amidst the flowery-kirtled Naiades,
Culling their potent herbs and baleful drugs;
Who, as they sung, would take the prisoned soul,
And lap it in Elysium: Scylla wept,
And chid her barking waves into attention,
And fell Charybdis murmured soft applause:
Yet they in pleasing slumber lull'd the sense,
And in sweet madness robbed 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 bless'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 is addressed to unattending ears:
Not 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.
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 thatched 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,
Com. What chance, good lady, hath bereft you I can not be, that I should fear to change it,thus?
Lad. Dim darkness and this leafy labyrinth. Com. Could that divide you from near ushering guides?
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
Eye me, blessed Providence, and square my trial To my proportioned strength.-Shepherd, lead on, [Exeunt.
Enter the Two BROTHERS.
El. Br. Unmuffle, ye faint stars; and thou, faimoon,
That wont'st to love the traveller's benison, Com. And left your fair side all unguarded, Stoop thy pale visage through an amber cloud, Lady? And disinherit Chaos, that reigns here
Lad. They were but twain, and purpos'd quick In double night of darkness and of shades;
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
Lad. As smooth as Hebe's their unrazor'd lips.
Com. Two such I saw, what time the labour'd ox
In his loose traces from the furrow came,
And the swinked 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 fairy vision
Of some gay creatures 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.
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, I suppose,
In such a scant 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,
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 thou shalt be our star of Arcady,
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 watches to his feathery dames,
"Twould be some solace yet, some little cheering,
In this close dungeon of innumersus 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 fears.
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!