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THE ATTENDANT SPIRIT, afterwards in FIRST BROTHER. the habit of THYRSIS.
SECOND BROTHER. Comus, with his Crew.
SABRINA, the Nymph. THE LADY.
The chief Persons, who presented, were
The Lord Brackley.
Mr. Thomas Egerton, his brother.
The Lady Alice Egerton.
The first Scene discovers a wild Wood.
The ATTENDANT Spirit descends or enters.
Before the starry threshold of Jove's court
My mansion is, where those immortal shapes
of bright aerial spirits live insphered
In regions mild of calm and serene air,
Above the smoke and stir of this dim spot,
Which men call earth; and, with low-thoughted care
Confined, and pester'd in this pinfold bere,
Strive to keep up a frail and feverish being,
Unmindful of the crown that Virtue gives,
After this mortal change, to her true servants,
Amongst the enthroned Gods on sainted seats.
Yet some there be, that by due steps aspire
To lay their just hands on that golden key,
the palace of Eternity:
To such my errand is; and, but for such,
I would not soil these pure ambrosial weeds
With the rank vapours of this in-worn mould.
But to my task. Neptune, besides the sway
Of every salt flood, and each ebbing stream,
Took in by lot 'twixt high and nether Jove
3. Insphered. In “Il Penseroso" (line 16. I would not soil, &c. That is, this 88) the spirit of Plato was to be un- Guardian Spirit would not have soiled sphered,-that is, to be called down from the purity of his ambrosial robes with the sphere to which it had been allotted, i the noisome exhalations of this sin-cor. where it had been insphered.—T. WARTON. rupted earth. (this sin-worn mould,) but
7. Pinfold is now provincial, and signi- ! to assist those distinguished mortals, who, fies fometimes a sheepfyld, but most com. | by a due progress in virtue, aspire to Iponly a pound.-T. WARTon. Pester'd: reach the golden key which opens heacrowded; Ital. pesta, a crowd.
ven,--the palace of Elernity.
Imperial rule of all the sea-girt isles,
That, like to rich and various gems, inlay
The unadorned bosom of the deep:
Which he, to grace his tributary gods,
By course commits to several government,
And gives them leave to wear their sapphire crowns,
And wield their little tridents: but this isle,
The greatest and the best of all the main,
He quarters to his blue-hair'd deities;
And all this tract that fronts the falling sun
A noble peer of mickle trust and power
Has in his charge, with temper'd awe to guide
An old and haughty nation, proud in arms :
Where his fair offspring, nursed in princely lore,
Are coming to attend their father's state,
And new-entrusted sceptre: but their way
Lies through the perplex'd paths of this drear wood,
The nodding horrour of whose shady brows
Threats the forlorn and wandering passenger;
And here their tender age might suffer peril,
But that by quick command from sovran Jove
I was dispatch'd for their defence and guard;
And listen why; for I will tell you now
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 mariners transform’d,
Coasting the Tyrrhene shore, as the winds listed,
On Circe's island fell: (who knows not Circe,
The daughter of the Sun, whose charmed cup
Whoever tasted, lost his upright shape,
And downward fell into a groveling swine ?).
This nymph, that gazed upon his clustering 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,
Whom therefore she brought up, and Comus named:
20. High and nether, i.e. the upper and bly, by singing or reciting tales.-T lower dominions of Jove.-27. This isle: WARTON.
48. Tuscan mariners. This story al. 'Albion, Prince of all the isles."-Jonson.
ludes to the punishments inflicted by 29. He quarters, that is, Neptune. Ilomer (in his Hymn to Bacchus) on the
33. An old and haughty nation. That Tyrrhene pirates, by transforming them is, the Cambro-Britains, who were to be into various animals.--Jos. WARTON. governed by rexpect mixed with awe. 50. Circe, is the celebrated enchantress, The Earl of Bridgewater, the noble Peer whose story as related by Homer is doubt. of mickle trust and power, was now go- less intended as an allegorical representavernour of the Welsh, as lord-president tion of the brutalizing effects of the of the principality.-T. Warton.
intoxicating cup. 44. What never yet, &c. The poet here 58. Comus. Newton observes, that coinsinuates that the story or fable of his mus is a deity of Milton's own making; Mask was new and unborrowed, although but Warton shows that he had before distantly founded on ancient poetical been a dramatic personage in one of Ben bistury. The allusion is to the ancient Johnson's Masks. An immense cup is mode of entertaining a splendid assum- carried before him, and he is crowned
Who, ripe and frolick of his full-grown age,
Roving the Celtick and Iberian 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 liquor 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 changed
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 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 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.
with roses and other flowers. His at that lie in so small a compass.-T. WARtendants carry javelins wreathed with TOX. ivy; and he enters, riding in triumph 83. Iris' wonf. Milton has frequent from a grove of ivy, to the wild music allusion to the colours of the rainbow. of flutes, tal ors, and cymbals. At length | In the “Ode on the Nativity,” (stanza the grove of ivy is destroyed,
xv.) Truth and Justice are not only And the voluptuous Comus, god of cheer, orled in a rainbow, but are apparelled in Beat from his grove.
its colours, But how many would have known any 84. Likeness of a swain. This refers to thing of this god of revellings and drunk. Henry Lawes, the musician, who perenness from the neglected and almost formed the combined characters of the forgotten Masks of Johnson, had not the Spirit and Thyrsis, in this drama. lle genius of Milton, by drawing such a was the son of Thomas Lawes, a vicar moral from his story, and clothing it in choral of Salisbury cathedral, and was such exquisite poetry, given hiin an un- perhaps, at first, choir-boy of that church. dying celebrity
Ile afterward- rose to great distinction as 60. Cutick and Iberian: France and a composer of music, but his name would Spain.
have been buried in oblivion had he not, 61. Ominous: Dangerous, inauspicious. by setting to music the songs of Comus,
65. Orient: Richly bright, from the associated his name for ever with this imradiance of the East.
mortal poem. Ile was also no mean poet 80. Swift as the sparkle of a glancing himself, as Milton's commendation of star. There are few finer comparisons / him, in his Sonnet, clearly shows.
Comus enters with 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.
Com. 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.
Meanwhile welcome joy, and feast,
Midnight shout, and revelry,
Tipsy dance, and jollity.
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 morrice 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?
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! to whom the secret flame
Of midnight torches burns; mysterious dame,
That ne'er art callid but when the dragon woom
Of Stygian darkness spets her thickest gloom,
108. Advice. It was in character for 126. 'Tis only day-light that makes sin. Comus to call Advice scrupulous : to de- A sentiment worthy of Comus; meaning, preciate and ridicule it at the expense of that sin consists not in the act, but in truth and propriety.-T. Warton.
the discovery of it. 110. Suws: Sayings, maxiins.
129. Ceylo: The goddess of Licen116. Morrice. The Morrice or Moorish tiousness, celebrated with great inde dance was first brought into England in cency in private at Athens, at midnight, Edward Third's time, when Jobu of Gaunt and hence called dark-reild, returned from Spain.--PECK.
132. Spets: Used by the old writers for 119. Fountain-brim: The edge or brink spits. of a fountain.
And makes one blot of all the air;
Stay thy cloudy ebon chair,
Wherein thou rid'st with Hecate, and befriend
Us thy vow'd priests, till utmost end
Of all thy dues be done, and none left out;
Ere the Þlabbing 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 grazed
My dazzling spells into the spungy air,
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,
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.
The Lady enters.
Lad. This way the noise was, if mine ear be true,
My best guide now: methought it was the sound
138. Blabbing. So Shakspeare, King, “The Measure") has just been legun, Hen. VI. p. 2, Act iv. Scene 1
which the Magician almost as soon breaks The gaudy, blabbing, and remorseful day. off, on perceiving the approach of some Comus is describing the morning con- chaste footing, from a sagacity appropritemptuously, as unfriendly to his secret ate to his character.--T. WARTOX. revels.
147. Shrouds : Recesses, harbours, hid139. Nice. A finely-chosen epithet, ex. | ing-places. pressing at once the curious and squeam- 157. Quaint: That is, strange habits. ish.-HURD.
161. Glozing: Flattering, deceitful. 145. Break off. A dance (here called 168. Fuirly: That is, softly.