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Immured in cypress shrades, a sorcerer dwells,
Of Bacchus and of Circe born, great Comus,
Deep skill'd in all his mother's witcheries ;
And liere, to every thirsty wanderer,
By sly enticement, gives his baneful cup,
With many murmurs mix'd, whose pleasing poison
The visage quite transforms of him that drinks,
And the inglorious likeness of a beast
Fixes instead, unmoulding Reason's mintage,
Character'd in the face: this have I learn’d
Tending my flocks hard by in the hilly crofts,
That brow this bottom glade, whence, night by night,
He, and his monstrous rout, are heard to howl,
Like stabled wolves, or tigers at their prey,
Doing abhorred rites to Hecate,
In their obscured haunts of inmost bowers.
Yet have they many baits, and guileful spells,
To inveigle and invite the unwary sense
Of them that pass unweeting by the way.
This evening late, by then the chewing flocks
Had ta’en their supper, on the savoury berb
Of knot-grass, dew-besprent, and were in fold,
I sat me down to watch upon a bank,
With ivy canopied, and interwove
With flaunting honeysuckle, and began,
Wrapt in a pleasing fit of melancholy,
To meditate my rural minstrelsy,
Till Fancy had her fill; but ere a close,
The wonted roar was up amidst the woods,
And fill'd the air with barbarous dissonance;
At which I ceas'd, and listen'd them a while,
Till an unusual stop of sudden silence
Gave respite to the drowsy frighted steeds,
That draw the litter of close-curtain'd Sleep;
At last, a soft and solemn-breathing sound
Rose like a steam of rich distillid perfumes,
And stole upon the air, that even Silence
Was took ere she was 'ware, & wish'd she might
Deny her nature, and be never more
Still to be so displaced. I was all ear,
And took in strains that might create a soul
Under the ribs of Death : but O, ere long,
Too well did I perceive it was the voice
Of my most honour'd Lady, your dear sister.
Amazed I stood, harrow'd with grief and fear,
And O, poor hapless nightingale, thought I,
How sweet thou sing'st, how near the deadly snare !
Then down the lawns I ran, with headlon, haste,
Through paths and turnings often trod by day,
Till, guided by mine ear, I found the place,
Where that damn'd wizard, hid in sly disguise,
For so by certain signs I knew, had met
Already, ere my best speed could prevent,
The aidless, innocent lady, his wish'd prey;
Who gently ask'd if he had seen such two,
Supposing him some neighbouring villager.
Longer I durst not stay, but soon I guess'd
Ye were the two she meant; with that I sprung
Into swift flight, till I had found you here;
But further know I not.
Sec. Br. O night, and shades,
How are ye join' with Hell, in triple knot,
Against the unarmed weakness of one virgin,
Alone, and helpless? Is this the confidence
You gave me, brother?
El. Br. Yes, and keep it still,
Lean on it safely; not a period
Shall be unsaid for me: against the threats
Of malice, or of sorcery, or that power,
Which erring men call Chance, this I hold firm,-
Virtue may be assail'd, but never hurt,
Surprised by unjust force, but not enthrall'd:
Yea even that, which mischief meant most harm,
Shall, in the happy trial, prove most glory,
But evil on itself shall back recoil,
And mix no more with goodness, when at last,
Gather'd like scum, and settled to itself,
It shall be, in eternal restless change
Self-fed, and self-consumed : if this fail,
The pillar'd firmament is rottenness,
And earth's base built on stubble. But come, let's on.
Against the opposing will and arm of Heaven
May never this just sword be lifted up;
But for that damn'd magician, let him be girt
With all the grisly legions that troop
Under the sooty flag of Acheron,
Harpies and hydras, or all the monstrous forms
'Twixt Africa and Ind, I'll find him out,
And force him to return his purchase back,
Or drag him, by the curls, to a foul death,
Cursed as his life.
Spir. Alas! good venturous youth,
I love thy courage yet, and bold emprise;
But here thy sword can do thee little stead;
Far other arms, and other weapons, must
Be those, that quell the might of hellish charms :
He with his bare wand can unthread thy joints,
And crumble all thy sinews.
El. Br. Why pr’ythee, shepherd,
How durst thou then thyself approach so near,
As to make this relation?
Spir. Care, and utmost shifts,
How to secure the lady from surprisal,
Brought to my mind a certain shepherd lad,
Of small regard to see to, yet well skill'd
In every virtuous plant, and healing herb,
That spreads her verdant leaf to the morning ray:
He loved me well, and oft would beg me sing,
Which when I did, he on the tender grass
Would sit, and hearken even to ecstacy,
And, in requital, ope his leathern scrip,
And show me simples of a thousand names,
Telling their strange and vigorous faculties :
Amongst the rest, a small unsightly root,
But of divine effect, he culld me out;
The leaf was darkish, and had prickles on it,
But in another country, as he said,
Bore a bright golden flower ; but not in this soil,
Unknown, and like esteem'd; and the dull swain
Treads on it daily, with his clouted shoon;
And yet more medicinal is it than that moly,
That Hermes once to wise Ulysses gave;
He call'd it hæmony, and gave it me,
And bade me keep it, as of sovereign use,
'Gainst all enchantments, mildew, blast, or damp,
Or ghastly furies' apparition.
I pursed it up, but little reckoning made,
Till now, that this extremity compellid :
But now, I find it true ; for, by this means,
I knew the foul enchanter, though disguised,
Enter'd the very lime-twigs of his spells,
And yet came off. If you have this about you,
As I will give you when we go, you may
Boldly assault the necromancer's hall;
Where if he be, with dauntless hardihood,
And brandish'd blade, rush on him, break his glass,
And shed the luscious liquor on the ground,
But seize his wand; though he and his cursed crew
Fierce sign of battle make, and menace high,
Or like the sons of Vulcan, vomit smoke,
Yet will they soon retire, ir be but shrink.
El. Br. Thyrsis, lead on apace, I'll follow thee; And some good angel bear a shield before us.
The Scene changes to a stately palace, set out with
all manner of deliciousness ; soft music, table, spread with all dainties. Comus appears with his rabble, and the Lady set in an enchanted chair, lo whom he offers his glass, which she puts by, and goes about to rise.
Nay, lady, sit; if I but wave this wand,
Your nerves are all chain'd up in alabaster,
And you a statue; or, as Daphne was,
Rootbound, that Aed Apollo.
Lad. Fool, do not boast;
Thou canst not touch the freedom of my mind,
With all thy charms, although this corporal rhind,
Thou hast immanacled, while Heaven sees good.
Com. Why are you vex'd, lady? why do you frown, Here dwell no frowns, nor anger; from these gates Sorrow flies far. See, here be all the pleasures, That fancy can beget on youthful thoughts, When the fresh blood grows lively, and returns Brisk as the April buds in primrose-season. And first, behold this cordial julep here, That flames, and dances in his crystal bounds With spirits of balm and fragrant sirops mix'd. Not that Nepenthes, which the wife of Thone, In Egypt, gave to Jove-born Helena, Is of such power to stir up joy as this, To life so friendly, or so cool to thirst. Why should you be so cruel to yourself, And to those dainty limbs, which Nature lent For gentle usage, and soft delicacy? But you invert the covenants of her trust, And harshly deal, like an ill-borrower, With that, which you received on other terms; Scorning the unexempt condition, By which all mortal frailty must subsist ; Refreshment after toil, ease after pain, That have been tired all day without repast, And timely rest have wanted ; but, fair virgin, This will restore all soon.
Lad. 'Twill not, false traitor ; Twill not restore the truth and honesty, That thou hast banish'd from thy tongue, with lies.
Was this the cottage, and the safe abode,
Thou told'st me of? What grim aspects are these,
These ugly-headed monsters ? Mercy guard me;
Hence with thy brew'd enchantments, foul deceiver ;
Hast thou betray'd my credulous innocence,
With visor'd falsehood, and base forgery?
And wouldst thou seek again to trap me here,
With lickerish baits, fit to ensnare a brute ?
Were it a draught for Juno, when she banquets,
I would not taste thy treasonous offer ; none
But such as are good men can give good things,
And that which is not good, is not delicious
To a well-governed and wise appetite.
Com. O foolishness of men ! that lend their ears
To those budge doctors of the Stoic fur,
And fetch their precepts from the Cynic tub,
Praising the lean and sallow Abstinence.
Wherefore did Nature pour her bounties forth,
With such a full and unwithdrawing hand,
Covering the earth with odours, fruits and flocks,
Thronging the seas with spawn innumerable,
But all to please, and sate the curious taste ?
And set to work millions of spinning worms, (silk,
That, in their green shops, weave the smooth-hair’d
To deck her sons; and, that no corner might
Be vacant of her plenty, in her own loins
She hutch'd the all-worshipp d ore, and precious gems
To store her children with : if all the world
Should, in a pet of temperance, feed on pulse,
Drink the clear stream, and nothing wear but frieze,
The All-giver would be unthank'd, would be unpraised,
Not half his riches known, and yet despised ;
And we should serve him, as a grudging master,
As a penurious niggard of his wealth ;
And live like Nature's bastards, not her sons,
Who would be quite surcharg'd with her own weight,
And strangled with her waste fertility; [plumes,
Th' earth cumber'd, and the wing'd air dark'd with
The herds would overmultitude their lords, (diamonds
The sea o'erfraught would swell, and the ansought
Would so imblaze the forehead of the deep,
And so bestud with stars, that they below
Would grow inured to light, and come, at last,
with shameless brows. List, lady; be not coy, and be not cozen'd With that same vaunted name, Virginity. Beauty is Nature's coin, must not be hoarded,