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The Attendant Spirit, afterwards in the habit of
Comus, with his crew.
Sabrina, the Nymph.
The chief persons who presented, were
The Lord Brackly.
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 aëreal Spirits live inspher'd
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
Confin’d and pester'd in this pin-fold here,
Strive to keep up a frail and feverish being,
Unmindful of the crown that Virtue gives,
After this mortal change, to her true servants,
10 Amongst the enthron'd Gods on sainted seats. Yet some there be, that by due steps aspire To lay their just hands on that golden key, That opes the palace of Eternity: To such my errand is; and, but for such,
15 I would not soil these pure ambrosial weeds With the rank vapours of this sin-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 20
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, nurs'd 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 horror of whose shady brows
Threats the forlorn and wand'ring passenger ;
And here their tender age might suffer peril,
But that by quick command from sovereign Jove
I was dispatch'd for their desence 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 ball or bower. 45
Bacchus, that first from out the purple grape
Crush'd the sweet poison of mis-used wine,
After the Tuscan mariners transform'd,
Coasting the Tyrrhene shore, as the winds listed,
On Circe's island fell: (who knows not Circe, 50
The daughter of the sun ? whose charmed cup
Whoever tasted, lost his upright shape,
And downward fell into a groveling swine :)
This nymph, that gaz'd upon his clust'ring locks
With ivy brrries 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 Celtie and Iberian fields,
60 At last betakes him to this ominous wood; And, in thick shelter of black shades embow'r'd, Excels his mother at her mighty art, Offering to every weary traveller His orient liquor in a crystal glass,
65 To quench the drouth of Phoebus; which as they taste, (For most do taste, through fond intemp'rate thirst,) Soon as the potion works, their buman count'nance, 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;
Ani they, so perfect is their misery,
Not once perceive their foul disfigurement,
But boast themselves more comely than before, 75
And all their friends and native home forget,
To roll with pleasure in a sensual sty.
Therefore when any, favour'd of high Jore,
Chances to pass through this advent'rous 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
or 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 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 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
206 f his chamber in the east. Meanwhile welcome Joy, and Feast, Midnight Shout, and Revelry,
Tipsy Dance, and Jolity.
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.
110 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, 115 Now to the moon in waving 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, deck'd with daisies trim, 120 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 rites begin,
195 '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 midnight torches burns; mysterious dame, 130 That ne'er art call'd, but when the dragon womb Of Stygian darkness spits her thickest gloom, And makes one blot of all the air ; Stay thy cloudy ebon chair, Wherein thou rid'st with Hecat', and be riend 135 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 loophole peep,
140 And to the tell-tale san descry Our conceal'd soleinnity.