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the two boys cleverly introduced in Comus's speeches beginning “ Can any mortal mixture

“ of earth's mould," and "Two such I saw, will thus be better understood, and a new meaning will be found in the closing scene, in which the children are presented to their father and mother with words of no idle flattery. Lawes himself played the part of the Attendant Spirit ; and when this Spirit is pointedly praised for the beauty and power of his music (as in the passages beginning “Who with his soft pipe and smooth-dittied song,” and “Thyrsis! whose artful strains have oft delayed "'), we may be sure that his friend the poet intended the audience to take these words as referring to the musician himself as much as to his assumed character.


The Attendant Spirit, afterwards in the

habit of Thyrsis ;
Comus, with his crew;
The Lady ;
First Brother ;
Second Brother;

Sabrina, the Nymph.
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
Of bright aëreal 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 care
Confined and pestered in this pinfold here,
Strive to keep up a frail and fev'rish being,
Unmindful of the crown that Virtue gives,
After this mortal change, to her true servants,
Amongst the enthronèd 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 ev'ry 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 crowns,
And wield their little tridents ; but this Isle,
The greatest and the best of all the main,
He quarters to his blue-haired deities ;
And all this tract that fronts the falling sun
A noble peer of mickle trust and pow'r
Has in his charge, with tempered 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-intrusted sceptre ; but their way
Lies through the perplexed paths of this drear wood,

• In the division of the earth, Pluto or Hades obtained the Nether regions; he was hence called "Infernal Zeus," or "Nether Jove."

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The nodding horrour of whose shady brows
Threats the forlorn and wand'ring passenger ;
And here their tender age might suffer peril,
But that by quick command from sovran Jove
I was despatched for their defence and guard :
And listen why ; for I will tell ye now
What never yet was heard in tale or song,
From old or modern bard, in hall or bow'r.

Bacchus," that first from out the purple grape
Crushed the sweet poison of misusèd wine,
After the Tuscan mariners transformed,
Coasting the Tyrrhene shore, as the winds listed,
On Circè's island fell (who knows not Circe,
The daughter of the Sun, whose charmèd cup
Whoever tasted lost his upright shape,
And downward fell into a grov'ling swine ?)
This Nymph, that gazed upon his clust'ring locks
With ivy berries wreathed, and his blithe youth,
Had by him, ere he parted thence, a son
Much like his father, but his mother more,
Waom therefore she brought up, and Comus named ;
Who, ripe and frolic of his full-grown age,
Roving the Celtic and Iberian fields,
At last betakes him to this om'nous wood ;
And in thick shelter of black shades imbow'red,
Excels his mother at her mighty art,
Off'ring to ev'ry weary traveller
His orient liquour in a crystal glass,
To quench the drouth of Phoebus ; which as they taste
(For most do taste through fond intemp'rate thirst),
Soon as the potion works, their human count'nance,
Th'express resemblance of the gods, is changed


· The genealogy which follows, like those in “L'Allegro" and Il Penseroso,” is Milton's invention.

* Comus was the god of revelry and riot. He had appeared in English masques before Milton introduced him here.

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 favoured of high Jove Chances to pass through this advent'rous glade, Swift as the sparkle of a glancing star I shoot from heav'n, 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

Comus. The star that bids the shepherd fold
Now the top of heav'n 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 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 scrup'lous 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. The sounds and seas, with all their finny drove, Now to the moon in wav'ring morrice move ; And, on the tawny sands and shelves, Trip the pert fairies and the dapper elves. By dimpled brook and fountain-brim, The Wood-Nymphs, decked with daisies trim, 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 nocturnal sport, Dark-veiled Cotytto ! 1 to whom the secret flame Of midnight torches burns! Mysterious dame, That ne'er art called but when the dragon womb · A Thracian goddess who was worshipped at night with licentious rites.

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