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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,
After the Tuscan manners1 traniform'd,
Coasting the Tyrrhene shore, as the winds listed,
On Circe's island fell: (Who knows not Circe,2
The daughter of the Sun, whose charmed cup
Whoever tasted lost his upright shape,
And downward fell into a grovelling swine?)
This Nymph, that gaz'd 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 nam'd:
Who, ripe and frolic of his full-grown age,
Roving the Celtick and Iberian3 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 liquour in a crystal glass,
To quench the drouth of Phoebus; which as they taste
(For most do taste through fond intemperate thirst),
Soon as the potion works, their human countenance,
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;

* 'Tiucan marineTM:' changed into beasts; see Ovid, Met. lib. iii.— * Circe:' ace Ibe Ody«»ey.—* 'Cellick and Iberian:' France and Spain.

And all their friends and native home forget,
To roll with pleasure in a sensual stye.
Therefore when any, favour'd of high Jove,
Chances to pass through this adventurous glade,
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 swain1
That to the service of this house belongs,
Who with his soft pipe, and smooth-ditted 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.

Enter Comus, 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 heaven doth hold;
And the gilded car of day
His glowing axle doth allay
In the steep Atlantick stream;
And the slope sun his upward beam
Shoots against the dusky pole,
Pacing toward the other goal
Of his chamber in the East,

1 'Swain :' Lawes is here meant, who enacted the Spirit.

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.

The sounds and seas, with all their finny drove,

Now to the moon in wavering morrice1 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 trim,

Their merry wakes and pastimes keep;

What hath Night to do with Sleep I2

Night hath better sweets to prove;

Venus now wakes, and wakens Love.

Come, let us our rights begin;

'Tis only day-light that makes sin,

Which these dun shades will ne'er report.—

Hail, Goddess of nocturnal sport,

Dark-veil'd Cotytto!3 to whom the secret flame

Of midnight torches burns; mysterious dame,

That ne'er art call'd, but when the dragon woom

Of Stygian darkness spits her thickest gloom,

1 'Morrice:'or Moorish dance.—* 'Night to do with sleep:' Byron imitates this in his 'Most Glorious Night! Thou wert not sent for slumber.'— * 'Cotytto:' goddess of wantonness.

And makes one blot of all the air;

Stay thy cloudy ebon chair,

Wherein thou ridest with Hecat',1 and befriend

Us thy vow'd 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 cabin'd loop-hole peep,

And to the tell-tale sun descry

Our conceal'd solemnity.—

Come, knit hands, and beat the ground

In a light fantastick 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 mine 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 spungy 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:

I, under fair pretence of friendly ends,

And well-plac'd words of glozing courtesy

Baited with reasons not unplausible,

Wind me into the easy-hearted man,

* 'Hecat':' the witch-goddess.

And hug him into snares. When once her eye
Hath met the virtue of this magick 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-manag'd merriment, Such as the jocund flute, or gamesome pipe, Stirs up among the loose unletter'd 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 swill'd insolence, Of such late wassailers; yet O! where else Shall I inform my unacquainted feet In the blind mazes of this tangled wood 1 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 engag'd their wandering steps too far; And envious darkness, ere they could return, Had stole them from me: else, O thievish Night,

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