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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 Phobus ; 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.

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 huri 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.1
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 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 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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