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Of every salt flood and each ebbing stream,
Took in by lot, 'twixt high and nether Jove,
Imperial rule of all the sea-girt iles,
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 ile,
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,
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 off-spring, nurst in princely lore,
Are coming to attend their father's state
And new-entrusted sceptre; but their way
Lies through the perplex't 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 dispatcht for their defence and guard :
And listen why; for I will tell ye 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't the sweet poison of misused wine,
After the Tuscan mariners transform’d,
Coasting the Tyrrhene shore, as the winds listed,
On Circe's iland 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 gazd upon his clust'ring 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 Celtic and Iberian fields,
At last betakes him to this ominous wood,
And, in thick shelter of black shades imbowr'd,
Excels his mother at her mighty art,
Offering to every weary travailer
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 countnance,
Th’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;
And all their friends and native home forget,
To roll with pleasure in a sensual sty.
Therefore when any favour'd of high Jove
Chances to pass through this adventrous glade,
Swift as the sparkle of a glancing star
I shoot from Heav'n 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.
Comus enters, 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 glistring. They come in making a riotous and unruly noise, with torches in their hands.
The star that bids the shepherd fold,
Now the top of Heav'n doth hold;
And the gilded car of day
His glowing axle doth allay
In the steep Atlantic 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!
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 morrice move;
And on the tawny sands and shelves
Trip the pert fairies and the dapper elves.
By dimpled brook and fountain brim
The wood-nymphs, deckt 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 wak'ns Love.
Come, let us our rites 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! t' whom the secret flame
Of mid-night torches burns; mysterious dame,
That ne'er art called but when the dragon womb
Of Stygian darkness spets her thickest gloom,
And makes one blot of all the air;
Stay thy cloudy ebon chair,
Wherein thou rid’st with Hecat', 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 th’ Indian steep
From her cabin'd loophole peep,
And to the tell-tale Sun descry
Our conceal'd solemnity,
Come, knit hands, and beat the ground
In a light fantastic 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’t with as fair a herd as graz'd
my mother Circe. Thus I huri
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't 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 magic 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.
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 fute 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 tangld wood ?
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 sed, 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 Ev'n,
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 wandring steps too far,
And envious darkness, ere they could return,
Had stole them from me; else, O thievish Night,
Why shouldst thou, but for some felonious end,
In thy dark lantern thus close up the stars
That Nature hung in Heav'n, and fill’d their lamps
With everlasting oil, to give due light
To the misled and lonely travailer?
This is the place, as well as I may guess,
Whence even now the tumult of loud mirth
Was rife, and perfet in my list’ning ear;
Yet nought but single darkness do I find.
What might this be? A thousand fantasies
Begin to throng into my memory,
Of calling shapes, and beckning shadows dire,
And airy tongues, that syllable men's names
On sands, and shores, and desert wildernesses.
These thoughts may startle well, but not astound
The virtuous mind, that ever walks attended
By a strong siding champion, Conscience.
O welcome, pure ey'd Faith, white-handed Hope,
Thou hovering angel girt with golden wings,
And thou unblemish't form of Chastity!
I see ye visibly, and now believe
That he, the Supreme good, t' whom all things ill
Are but as slavish officers of vengeance,
Would send a glistring guardian, if need were,
To keep my life and honour unassail'd.
Was I deceivd, or did a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night?
I did not err; there does a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night,
And casts a gleam over this tufted grove.
I cannot hallow to my brothers, but
Such noise as I can make to be heard farthest
for my new-enliv’nd spirits Prompt me, and they perhaps are not far off.
Sweet Echo! sweetest Nymph, that liv'st unseen
Within thy airy shell,
By slow Meander's margent green;
And in the violet embroider'd vale,
Where the love-lomn nightingale
Nightly to thee her sad song mourneth well;
Canst thou not tell me of a gentle pair
That likest thy Narcissus are?
O if thou have
Hid them in some flowry cave,
Tell me but where,
Sweet queen of parly, daughter of the sphere;
So may'st thou be translated to the skies,
And give resounding grace to all Heav'ns harmonies.
Comus. Can any mortal mixture of earth's mould
Breathe such divine enchanting ravishment?
Sure something holy lodges in that breast,
And with these raptures moves the vocal air
To testify his hidd’n residence: