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Of Stygian darkness spets her thickest gloom,
And makes one blot of all the air,
Stay thy cloudy ebon chair,
Wherein thou rid'st with Hecate, and befriend
Us thy avowed priests, till utmost end
Of all thy dues be done and none left out ;
Ere the blabbing 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.

The measure

Break off, break off, I feel the diff'rent 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 mine art) Benighted in these woods. Now to my charms, And to my wily trains ; I shall ere long Be well stocked with as fair a herd as grazed About my mother Circè. Thus I hurl My dazzling spells into the spungy air, Of pow'r 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 : I, 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,

1 A goddess of night, the under-world, and magic.

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.

Enter the Lady

Lady. This way the noise was, if mine ear be true, My best guide now. Methought it was the sound Of riot and ill-managed merriment, Such as the jocund flute or gamesome pipe Stirs up among the loose unlettered 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 swilled insolence Of such late wassailers ; yet oh, 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, Stepped, 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 grey-hooded Ev'n, Like a sad votarist in palmer's weed, Rose from the hindmost wheels of Phæbus' wain; But where they are, and why they came not back, Is now the labour of my thoughts ; 'tis likeliest They had engaged their wand'ring steps too far, And envious Darkness, ere they could return, Had stole them from me : else, O thievish Night,

* Business.

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Why shouldst thou, but for some felonious end,
In thy dark lantern thus close up the stars,
That Nature hung in heav'n, 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 list’ning 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 beck'ning shadows dire,
And aery tongues that syllable men's names
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.-
Oh, welcome, pure-eyed Faith, white-handed Hope,
Thou hov'ring Angel, girt with golden wings,
And thou, unblemished form of Chastity !
I see ye visibly, and now believe
That He, the Supreme Good, to whom all things ill
Are but as slavish officers of vengeance,
Would send a glist'ring guardian, if need were,
To keep my life and honour unassailed.

Was I deceived, 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-enlivened spirits
Prompt me ; and they perhaps are not far off.

SONG

Sweet Echo, sweetest Nymph, that liv'st unseen

Within thy aery shell,

By slow Meander's margent green, And in the violet-embroidered 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 ?

Oh, if thou have
Hid them in some flow'ry cave,

Tell me but where,
Sweet Queen of parley, Daughter of the Sphere !

So mayst thou be translated to the skies,
And give resounding grace to all Heav'n's harmonies !

Comus enters

Comus. Can any mortal mixture of Earth's mould 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 ev'ry fall smoothing the raven-down Of Darkness, till it smiled! I have oft heard My mother Circe with the Sirens three, Amidst the flow'ry-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 1 into attention, And fell Charybdis murmured soft applause :

Virgil's "Multis circum latrantibus undis," "Æneid,” vii. 588.

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Yet they in pleasing slumber lulled 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 blest song
Forbidding ev'ry bleak, unkindly fog
To touch the prosp'rous growth of this tall wood.
Lady. 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 severed company,
Compelled me to awake the courteous Echo
To give me answer from her mossy couch.
Comus. What chance, good Lady, hath bereft you

thus ? Lady. Dim carkness, and this leafy labyrinth. Comus. Could that divide you from near-ush'ring

guides? Lady. They left me weary on a grassy turf. Comus. By falsehood, or discourtesy, or why? Lady. To seek i the valley some cool, friendly

spring. Comus. And left your fair side all unguarded,

Lady ?
Lady. They were iut twain, and ourposed quick

return.
Comus. Perhaps forestalling Night prevented them.
Lady. How easy my misfortune is to hit !
Comus. Imports thir loss, besides the present

need ?
Lady. No less than its should my brothers lose.

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