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Inns of Court 21,000l. ; whereof 1,000l. were spent on the music-Lawes and his fellow-composer receiving 100l. apiece for their share. The actors in this masque were chiefly handsome lawyers of the Four Inns, whose names are now unknown. But, a fortnight later, in the same Banqueting-house at Whitehall, there was another masque, of scarcely inferior magnificence, given by their Majesties themselves, and in which the actors were the King, fourteen of the chief nobles, and ten young sons of noblemen. This was Carew's Cælum Britannicum, performed on Shrove-Tuesday night, February 18, 1633-4. The music to this masque was by Henry Lawes ; the machinery by Inigo Jones; and among the young noblemen who took juvenile parts in it were the Earl of Bridgewater's two sons, Viscount Brackley and Mr. Thomas Egerton, and their cousin Lord Chandos.

With a recollection of the Arcades, and probably of many other such private theatrical delights, traditional in the Bridgewater family ; with the two young boys fresh from the glory of their small parts in the recent royal masque of Cælum Britannicum ; above all, with Lawes, the musical tutor of the family, radiant from his musical success in that masque and in its more gorgeous predecessor, the masque of The Triumph of Peace by the Four Inns of Court ; --what more natural than that it should be resolved to seize the opportunity of the Earl's entry on his Welsh Presidency for a masque on a great scale that should astonish the Welsh and all the West of England? The youngsters and Lawes probably devised the thing; and, the Earl having given his consent, all was arranged. The preparations must have been begun months before the masque actually came off-probably while the family were yet in London. Lawes, of course, was to take care of the music and was to be general manager; and the other actors and singers were to be the young people of the family. But who should write the poetry? Who but Lawes's friend, Mr. Milton, who had already in the Arcades given such satisfactory proofs of his fitness for the kind of composition that was wanted ? In fact, whether to please himself or to oblige Lawes, or to oblige the Earl of Bridgewater and his family on account of some bond of acquaintance with the family now not recoverable, Milton did undertake to write che masque. The composition of it, we must suppose, occupied him at Horton for several weeks, or even a month or two, during the early part of 1634.

On undertaking to write the masque, Milton would think of some appropriate story, to be shaped into a dramatic pastoral of the required kind, for representation on a stage in the hall of a great Castle by young lords and ladies, and with songs interspersed, to be sung by some of these performers to airs by his friend Lawes. The nature and circumstances of the occasion would be vividly present to his imagination--the Earl entering on his office as President of the ancient Principality; his retinue, with Welsh and West-of-England gentry among them ; the town and castle of Ludlow, and their neighbourhood, as conceived by him from descriptions, or perhaps seen by him (who knows?) in some tour of his own into those parts; the proximity of the place to Welsh scenery, and the connexion of the occasion with ancient British memories and legends. He would, doubtless, co-operate with Lawes, and would give or receive hints. But how the actual story of Comus occurred to Milton-the story of the young lady parted from her two brothers at night in the depths of a wild wood, found there by Comus and his crew of evil revellers, and lured and detained by their enchantments, until the Brothers, instructed by a good Attendant Spirit in the shape of their father's faithful shepherd, Thyrsis,

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legends and associations-legends and associations connected with the old wars of race between the Welsh and the Norman-English, or with those subsequent Wars of the Roses in which the Welsh had taken so active a share. Thus there were shown in the Castle certain rooms called “the Princes' Apartments," where Edward, Prince of Wales, and his young brother, the sons of Edward IV., had lived from 1472 to 1483, when they left Ludlow on that fatal journey which ended in their murder in the Tower.

Although appointed Lord President of Wales in June 1631, the Earl of Bridgewater does not seem to have assumed his functions actively, or to have gone near Ludlow, till some time afterwards. On the 12th of May, 1633, his powers in his office were defined afresh by a Royal Letter of Instructions, which was also to regulate the future proceedings, judicial and administrative, of the Council over which he presided. This Council was ostensibly to consist of upwards of eighty persons named in the Letter, among whom were many bishops and the chief state-officers of England, besides a number of knights and gentlemen of the Welsh border.

In October 1633 the Earl sent his new Letter of Instructions to his Council ; at Ludlow, to be read and registered before his own arrival. At what time he followed in person we do not accurately know; but, when he did follow, ihe ceremonial of his inauguration was unusually splendid. He was attended “by a large concourse of the neighbouring nobility and gentry”—i.l., we may suppose, by all of his Council then in those parts, and by other persons of local consequence. He had brought his Countess with him, and probably his whole family, from London or Ashridge—including, as we certainly know, his youngest daughter, the Lady Alice Egerton, a beautiful young girl, fourteen or fifteen years old, and her two younger brothers, Viscount Brackley and Mr. Thomas Egerton. The festivities and hospitalities proper to such an occasion as the Earl's inauguration would naturally protract themselves over a considerable time. They did protract themselves, at all events, to Michaelmas-night, the 29th of September, 1634, when all Ludlow was astir with an unusual thing in those parts--nothing less than a complete masque, or poetical and musical entertainment, performed in the great hall of Ludlow Castle, by meme bers of the Earl's family, before the Earl and an audience of assembled guests.

At this particular time, the English Court and aristocracy may be said to have been masque-mad. Nothing so magnificent, for example, in the shape of a pageant had ever been seen in England as that got up by the lawyers o the Four Inns of Court in February 1633-4, as an expression of their love and duty to their Majesties," i.e. to King Charles and Queen Henrietta Maria. Months were spent in the preparation. Shirley was engaged to write the poetry ; Mr. Simon Ivy and Mr. Henry Lawes to compose the music; Inigo Jones to construct the machinery : while some of the ablest and most eminent lawyers of the time, such as Sélden, Attorney-General Noy, Bulstrode Whitelocke, and Mr. Hyde, acted zealously on the Committee of General Management. When the day came--Feb. 3--there was a gorgeous afternoon and evening procession of the masquers, with painted chariots, flaming torches, music, and wondrous grotesque accompaniments, from Holborn down Chancery Lane to Whitehall, the whole population of London having gathered along the route to see and to cheer ; and, afterwards, in the Banqueting house at Whitehall, the main masque itself, Shirley's Triumph of Peace, was performed before their Majesties with every possible magnificence. The whole affair cost the Four


sixty feet long and thirty wide, in which, according to tradition, the elder of the two Princes murdered in the Tower had been proclaimed King, with the title of Edward V., before commencing his fatal journey to London. It is the place of all great state-meetings of the Council of the Presidency. But on this evening it is converted into a theatre and brilliantly lighted. While the Earl and Countess and the rest of the seated audience occupy the main portion of the hall, one end of it is fitted up as a stage, with curtains, &c. Here the performance begins. The first scene discovers a wild wood: The Attendant Spirit descends or enters. Such is the stage-direction; the meaning of which is that, the stage having been darkened to signify that it is night, and there being paintings or other contrivances in the back-ground to represent a wood, Lawes "descends or

In the printed copies, and also in the Cambridge MS., he begins with a speech ; but in the Bridgewater MS. this speech is preceded by a song of twenty lines, the opening lines of which are-


“From the heavens now I fly,
And those happy clinies that lie
Where day never shuts his eye
Up in the broad fields of the sky."

There is no doubt that the Bridgewater MS., being the stage copy, here represents what did actually happen. Milton had intended the masque to begin with a speech ; but Lawes, thinking it better for stage-purposes to begin with a song, had taken the liberty of transferring to this point a portion of that which now stands, and which Milton intended to stand, as the final song or epilogue of the Attendant Spirit at the end of the masque. In that final song or epilogue as we now have it, the Attendant Spirit, announcing his departure, when the play is over, says-

“To the ocean now I fly,
And those happy climes that lie
Where day never shuts his eye
Up in the broad fields of the sky,”-

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which lines, with a part of their sequel, Lawes, it will be seen, converted cleverly into a prologue, or song of arrival, by the change of To the oceaninto “ From the heavens.He doubtless thought it more effective to “descend” on the stage, singing this prologue ; after which, when on the stage, he made the speech announcing the purpose for which he had descended. In that speech, after introducing himself in his character as an attendant Spirit of Good, sent down to Earth from Jove's realms on a special errand, he thus informs the audience at the outset as to the general drift of the play they are about to witness, and connects it gracefully with the actual circumstances of the Earl of Bridgewater's presence among them, and his entering on so high a Briti ih office as the Welsh Presidency

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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-haired deities;
And all this tract that fronts the falling sun
A noble Peer of mickle trust and power
Has in his charge, with tempered 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 sceptr2. But their way
Lies through the perplexed paths of this drear wood,
The nodding horror 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 despatched for their defence and guard.”


Prepared by these words, and by the further explanation of the Attendant Spirit that the wood is haunted by the god Comus and his crew of revellers, who waylay travellers and tempt them with an enchanted liquor which changes the countenances of those who partake into the faces of beasts, the audience see the story developed in action before them. They see Comus and his crew appear in the wood with torches, making a riotous and unruly noise -Comus, with a charming-rod in one hand and a glass in the other; and his crew, a set of monsters, with bodies of men and women in glistering apparel, but headed like sundry sorts of wild beasts. They see the crew knit hands and dance, and the dance broken off, by the orders of Comus, at the sound of a light footstep approaching. They see the crew then disappear among the trees, leaving their master alone, who knows that the footstep is that of some benighted virgin, and who, after throwing his “dazzling spells” (query, some blaze of blue light?) in the direction in which she is coming, also steps aside to watch.

Then they see the Lady” enter—the sweet Lady Alice, received, of course, with rapturous applause. They hear her explain how she has lost her brothers since sunset, how it is now midnight, how the rude sounds of revelry have attracted her to the spot, and how the darkness and the silence would alarm her were it not for her trust in a higher Power, guarding virtuous minùs. As she speaks there comes a gleam through the grove ; and, thinking her rrethers may be near, she will guide them to her by a song. Accordingly, she sings the song beginning “Sweet Echo--the first song in the masque, according to Milton's arrangement of it, but the second in Lawes's stagearrangement. It is not her brothers that the song. brings to her, but Comus, who has been listening in admiration. Appearing before her in the guise of a shepherd, he tells her he has seen her brothers, and offers to lead her to them, or to lodge her in his humble cottage till they can be found in the morning. Scarcely has she accepted the offer and left the scene with Comus, when her two brothers -- the boys, Viscount Brackley and Mr. Thomas Egerton, also greatly cheered, of course--appear. They discuss with great anxiety the situation of their sister, the elder comforting the younger, till their conversation is interrupted by a far off holloa. Lest it should be a robber, they draw their swords. But it is their father's faithful shepherd, Thyrsis; or rather they think it is he-for, in reality, it is the good Attendant Spirit, who has been taking note of all that has befallen the Lady, and who, in meeting the brothers, has assumed the disguise of ons well known to them. He explains the state of affairs, and greatly alarms the younger brother by his account of Comus and

his crew.

The elder, though more steady, is for rushing at once to the haunt of the magician and dragging him to death. But the Attendant Spirit, as Thyrsis, explaining that such violence will be vain against the craft of a Sorcerer, proposes rather that they should avail themselves of the power of a certain precious plant, called Hæmony, of which a portion had once been given him by a certain skilful shepherd-lad of his acquaintance. He had tested the virtue of this plant to ward off enchantments, for he had already approached Comus safely by means of it; and he now proposes that they should all three confront Comus with its aid. The Brothers agree, and they and the supposed Thyrsis go off. Then the scene changes before the eyes of the audience, representing “a stately palace, set out with all manner of deliciousness; soft music; tables spread with dainties ;” the Lady in an enchanted chair, with Comus pressing her to drink out of a glass, while his rabble stand around. There is a matchless dialogue between the Lady and Comus –

5-an argument of Purity or Abstinence against Sensuality, in which Purity overcomes and defies its enemy. The Sorcerer, awed, but still persevering, prays the Lady only to taste, when her Brothers rush in with drawn swords, wrest the glass from his hand, and dash it to pieces. Comus and his crew resist slightly, but are driven away and dispersed. Thyrsis then, coming in after the Brothers, finds that unfortunately they have not attended to his instruction to seize the enchanter's wand. The Lady is still marble-bound to her chair, from which the motion of the wand might have freed her. To effect this Thyrsis proposes a new device. It is to invoke Sabrina, the nymph of the adjacent and far-famed Severn river. Who so likely to succour distressed maidenhood as she, that daughter of Locrine the son of Brutus, who, as ancient British legends told, had flung herself, to preserve her honour, into the stream which had since borne her name? By way of invocation of Sabrina, Thyrsis (i.e. Lawes) sings what is now the second song in the masque, but is the third in Lawes's arrangement—the exquisite song beginning

Sabrina fair. Obeying the invocation, Sabrina rises, attended by water-nymphs, and sings the song By the rushy-fringed bank--the third song in Milton's arrangement, the fourth in Lawes's. She then performs the expected office of releasing the Lady by sprinkling drops of pure water upon her, and touching thrice her lips and finger-tips. Sabrina descends, and the Lady rises from her seat. But, though she is now free from the spell of Comus in his enchanted wood, it remains to convey her and her brothers safely to their father's residence, where their arrival is waited for. Accordingly, after an ode of thanks to Sabrina for her good service, with blessings on the stream that bears her name, the supposed Thyrsis continues :-

"Come, Lady ; while Heaven lends us grace,
Let us fly this cursed place,
Lest the Sorcerer us entice
With some other new device.
Not a waste or needless sound
Till we come to holier ground.
I shall be your faithful guide
Through the gloomy covert wide;
And not many furlongs thence
Is your Father's residence,
Where this night are met in state
Many a friend to gratulate
His wished presence, and beside
All the swains that there abide
With jigs and rural dance resort.
We shall catch them at their spori;

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