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All amidst the gardens fair
Till free consent the gods among
But now my task is smoothly done,
Mortals, that would follow me,
THE GENERAL OPINIONS
THE BEAUTIES AND THE FAULTS
C O M U S.
In the peculiar disposition of the story, the sweetness of the numbers, the justness of the expression, and the moral it teaches, there is nothing extant in any language like the Mask of Comus.
Milton's Juvenile Poems are so no otherwise, than as they were written in his younger years; for their dignity and excellence they are sufficient to have set him among the most celebrated of the poets, even of the ancients themselves: his Mask and Lycidas are perhaps superior to all in their several kinds. Richardson.
Comus is written very much in imitation of Shakspeare's Tempest, and the Faithful Shepherdess of Fletcher; and though one of the first, is yet one of the most beautiful of Milton's compositions. Newton.
Milton seems in this poem to have imitated Shakspeare's manner more than in any other of his works; and it was very natural for a young author, preparing a piece for the stage, to propose to himself for a pattern the most celebrated master of English dramatic poetry. Thyer.
Milton has here more professedly imitated the manner of Shakspeare in his fairy scenes, than in any other of his works: and his poem is much the better for it, not only for the beauty, variety, and novelty of his images, but for a brighter vein of poetry, and an ease and delicacy of expression very superior to his natural manner. Warburton.
If this Mask had been revised by Milton, when his ear and judgment were perfectly formed, it had been the most exquisite of all his poems. As it is, there are some puerilities in it, and many inaccuracies of expression and versification. The two editions of his Poems are of 1645 and 1673. In 1645 he was, as he would think, better employed. In 1673 he would condemn himself for having written such a thing as a Mask, especially to a great lord, and a sort of Viceroy. Hurd.
The greatest of Milton's juvenile performances is the Mask of Comus, in which may very plainly be discovered the dawn or twilight of Paradise Lost. Milton appears to have formed very early that system of diction, and mode of verse, which his maturer judgment approved, and from which he never endeavoured nor desired to deviate.
Nor does Comus afford only a specimen of his language; it exhibits likewise his power of description and his vigour of sentiment, employed in the praise and defence of virtue. A work more truly poetical is rarely found; allusions, images, and descriptive epithets, embellish almost every period with lavish decoration. As a series of lines, therefore, it may be considered as worthy of all the admiration with which the votaries have received it.
As a drama it is deficient. The action is not probable. A masque, in those parts where supernatural intervention is admitted, must indeed be given up to all the freaks of imagination; but, so far as the action is merely human, it ought to be reasonable, which can hardly be said of the conduct of the two brothers, who, when their sister sinks with fatigue in a pathless wilderness, wander both away together in search of berries too