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of country inhabited by boors and savage peasants.
On these simple facts, the poet raised a superstructure of fairy spells and poetical delight.* The poem abounds in allegory; it is ethical and didactic: it discourses of the nature of virtue, of the true character of temperance, of the method of the seductions of vice. Nor less does it abound in figures delineative of country life, with its scenes and occupations. Let the reader linger over the rich fullness of descriptions that bring before us
“The grey-hooded Even,
or those hints so suggestive of evening life in the country.
“Might we but hear
Conus is the great arch-reveller, the tempter of the poem ; he is impersonated Sensuality.
• Sir Egerton Brydges.
To him everything that is exists only for enjoyment and lust. He is fabled to hold his reign in the woods, with his rude Bacchic rout of fellow-revellers ; there they quaff the cups which transform the express resemblance of the gods to brutish forms of wolves, or bears ; of ounce, or tiger; of hog, or bearded goat; while the victims of the enchantment, (so perfect in their misery) not once perceive their foul disfigurement: and, as Comus is impersonated Sensuality, so the lost Lady of the masque is impersonated Virtue. No better description can be given of the general idea of the poem than the discussion between Comus and the Lady who has fallen into his power. In reply to the invitation of Comus to taste of his charmed cup, she says :
COMUS.--Oh foolishness of men ! that lend their ears
Covering the earth with odours, fruits, and flocks,
LADY.—I had not thought to have unlock'd my lips
7 “Hutcht,” concealed, or kept as in a coffer.
With her abundance; she, good cateross,
Comus may stand as the god of all those who make enjoyment the great leading and central principle of life ; to whom nothing lives, and brightens, and blooms, but it has a sensual meaning, and intention, and application, Man is subject to the temptation of two devils -the devil of sensuality and sense, the devil of intellectuality and spirit. The delineation of the first is in Comus, of the other in Satan. The latter is a rare subtle, abstracting spirit; the other is a universal, visible, and materialising one. The reasonings of Comus lie on the surface, they are their own end ; the reasonings of Satan lie deeper, and all things are
ulterior. The arguments of Comus are intended to make the world one wide saloon of enjoyment. Comus can see no other reason in all this creation than that its whole variety and furniture should be bestowed for eating, or drinking; for gluttony, or intemperance. Comus is perpetually asking what we shall do with things. Nothing is reserved for beauty, nothing for the glory of the universe or the entertainment of the soul. All things are valued just as they have the stamp of utility or sensuality upon them. Some Comuses would find too many superadditions in the world. The magic enchantments of colour and the tones of singing birds, and the variegated livery of clouds and flowers, would be all too much for these epicureans. Comus is quite afraid that if all be not gathered for luxury or vanity, that the air would be darkened with plumes, the sea, overfraught, would swell with diamonds, semblazing the forehead of the deep;” the earth be cumbered, and Nature strangled with her waste fertility; and it may be noticed in the poem, that this gorgeous inflation of language is most appropriately used by the genius of sensuality, and contrasts well with the chaste simplicity of language used by the lady. I am sometimes disposed to look at man universally