which the place and his mask conferred upon new admirer greeted her, when Milton gave him, and addressed her in the spirit of his the signal that the performance was to compart.

"Most beautiful of mortals !” he whispered The first scene represented a wild wood. in a low voice, “I lay my heart at your feet. King as Attendant Spirit entered it and proI am called a powerful wizard by every one, claimed his mission in the following welland my fame fills this whole sea-girt island; sounding lines : but before you I feel my weakness. Who can

“Before the starry threshold of Jove's court behold with impunity so many accomplish My mansion is, where those immortal shapes

Of bright aërial spirits live insphered ments, coupled with such ravishing beauty,

In regions mild of calm and serene air, without being enthralled thereby ?”

Above the smoke and stir of this dim spot,

Which men call earth; and, with low-thoughted "You are not in keeping with your part," she replied, playfully. “Moreover, it is well Confined, and pestered in this pinfold here,

Strive to keep up a frail and feverish being, known to every one that the god Comus is an

Unmindful of the crown that Virtue gives, arrant rogue, intent upon deceiving a poor After this mortal change, to her true servants, girl.”

Amongst the enthronèd gods on sainted seats.

Yet some there be, that by due steps aspire “I swear to you that I never loved a woman To lay their just hands on that golden key, as intensely as I love you."

That opes the palace of Eternity;

To such my errand is; and, but for such, “Not even Venetia Stanley, your first 'I would not soil these pure ambrosial weeds wife ?”

With the rank vapors of this sin-worn mould." The accomplished courtier was silent only After these int uctory lines, the Spirit exfor a moment. This reply had disconcerted tolled the noble Earl of Bridgewater and his him, but he soon recovered his wonted bold- children. To protect those who had lost ness, and overwhelmed Alice with impassioned their way in the wood from the knavish de protestations and insidious flatteries, which, vices of Comus, the most malicious of all gods, however, produced the opposite effect on her. he said he would take the weeds and like His dress, a doublet of red silk, covered with ness of a swain that belonged to the service of small bells, his bearing, and even the tone of the house, and caution the unsuspecting travhis voice, reminded her only too painfully of ellers against the baneful tricks of the wizard. her meeting with Billy Green, who appeared to So saying, the Spirit withdrew, and Sir Kenelm her here a second time, though in a refined Digby entered the scene in the mask of Coform, and with the manners of a well-bred In one hand he held an enchanting-rod, courtier. Nay, she even secretly preferred the in the other his glass ; with him a rout of monvoluptuous bluntness of the shrewd vagabond sters, with heads like various sorts of wild to the refined sensuality of the courtier. The beasts, but otherwise like men and women, same brutal expression, only concealed under their apparel glistening. They came in, makthe mask of courtly politeness, deterred her ing a riotous and unruly noise, with torches in distrustful heart from listening to the appeals their hands. Comus addressed his companof the unprincipled tempter. The approach ions quite in the spirit of bis part: of King, who was to perform the part of the

Welcome joy and feast, Attendant Spirit, delivered her from the irk

Midnight shout and revelry,

Tipsy dance and jollity! some presence of the dangerous courtier, who Braid your locks with rosy twine, withdrew angrily, deferring his plans to a

Dropping odors, dropping wine.

Rigor now is gone to bed, more favorable opportunity. Scarcely had her And Advice, with scrupulous head,



Strict Age and sour Severity,
With their grave saws, in slumber lie.


The sorinds 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, decked 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 rites begin;
'Tis only daylight that makes sin,
Which these dun shades will ne'er report.
Hail, goddess of nocturnal sport,
Dark-veiled Cotytto! to whom the secret flame
Of midnight torches burns.

as a prize for his unprincipled voluptuousness addresses her in the disguised character of a peasant, offering to conduct her to his own lowly but loyal cottage, which she trustfully accepts. Meanwhile, the brothers, unable to find their way back to their sister, become dreadfully uneasy lest some harm should befall ber. John, the more prudent of the two, comforts bis younger brother Thomas, and endeavors to quiet his fears :

[ocr errors]


Come, knit hands, and beat the ground, In a light fantastic round!”

The monsters now performed a characteris. tic dance, exhibiting their brutal peculiarities in the boldest and wildest leaps. The torches shed a lurid light on the dark scene and the wonderful groups. The goats made a searful noise, and danced up and down the stage; the ass waltzed with a monkey, wolves and lions vied with each other in howling and roaring. The whole chorus expressed the brutal jollity of the attendants with great skill. Gradually, however, the noisy, bacchantic music assumed a gentler character, to indicate the approach of Alice, who had lost her way in the forest, and Comus shouted to the crazy dancers :

Elder Brother.
“My sister is not so defenceless left
As you imagine; she has a hidden strength,
Which you remember not.

Second Brother.

What hidden strength, Unless the strength of Heaven, if you mean that?

Elder Brother.. I mean that, too, but yet a hidden strength, Which, if Heaven gave it, may be termed her own: 'Tis Chastity, my brother, Chastity. She that has that is clad in complete steel; And, like a quivered nymph, with arrows keen, May trace huge forests, and unharbored heaths, Infamous hills, and sandy, perilous wilds, Where, through the sacred rays of Chastity, No savage fierce, bandit, or mountaineer, Will dare to soil her virgin purity; Yea, there, where very desolation dwells, By grots and caverns, shagged with horrid shades, She may pass on with unblenched majesty, Be it not done in pride, or in presumption. Some say, no evil thing that walks by night In fog or fire, by lake or moorish fen, Blue meagre hag, or stubborn unlaid ghost That breaks his magic chains at curfew-time,' No goblin, or swart fairy of the mine, Hath hurtful power o'er true virginity.

[blocks in formation]

“Break off, break off, I feel the different pace

Of some chasto 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 !


But here she comes: I fairly step aside, And hearken, if I may, her business here."

So dear to Heaven is saintly Chastity,
That, when a soul is found sincerely so,
A thousand liveried angels lackey her,
Driving far off each thing of sin and guilt;
And in clear dream and solemn vision,
Tell her of things that no gross ear can hear;
Till oft converse with heavenly habitants
Begins to cast a beam on the outward shape,
The unpolluted temple of the mind,
And turns it by degrees to the soul's essence,
Till all be made immortal; but when lust,
By unchaste looks, loose gestures, and foul talk,
But most by lewd and lavish act of sin,
Lets in defilement to the inward parts,
The soul grows clotted by contagion,
Imbodies and imbrutes, till she quite lose
The divine property of her first being.
Such are those thick and gloomy shadows damp
Oft seen in charnal vaults and sepulchres

Alice appeared now in the same dress which she had worn in Haywood Forest, and expressed fears as to the absence of her brothers, who had left her alone in the forest. Comus discovered the beautiful lady in her forlorn and unprotected state; and, to secure her

Lingering, and sitting by a new-made grave, mask passed into real life, and its fantastic
As loth to leave the body that it loved,
And linked itself by carnal sensuality

words expressed, though in a manner concealed To a degenerate and degraded state."

from the audience, the true state of their feelThe attentive audience greeted this beauti- ings toward each other. The most eminent ful passage with rapturous applause. The earl actors could not have performed these parts

better than Digby and Alice did. Both forgot himself gave the signal for it, and all the

that they were on the stage, and playing a others followed him. King, the Good Spirit, with whom the poem bad opened, now entered mask; the impetuosity with which he urged again in the garb of a shepherd, and joined her to yield to his propositions was no longer the anxious brothers. He informed them of feigned, but interpreted truly his own desires. the character of Comus, and his wicked de- Voluptuousness and passionate longing were signs upon their sister. At the same time he stamped on his countenance, and were betold them how to save her. He handed them trayed by the tremulous tone of his voice, a small unsightly root, but of divine effect, and while Alice expressed to him most emphatiof sovereign use against all enchantments. cally the horror and fear with which he in

spired her. This was no longer an illusion ; it Armed with this amulet, he told them to assault boldly the necromancer's hall

was the whole, undisguised truth. The words

which Milton had given them to speak corre“Where if he be, with dauntless hardihood And brandished blade, rush on him, break his glass, sponded in an almost incomprehensible manAnd shed the luscious liquor on the ground, ner to the singular position which they occuBut seize his wand; though he and his cursed crew Fierce sign of battle make, and menace high,

pied toward each other In writing these Or, like the sons of Vulcan, vomit smoke,

lines, the poet had perhaps borne in mind Yet will they soon retire, if he but shrink.”

their individual characters and their striking The brothers promised to follow his advice, contrast, and, in trying to portray general and departed, accompanied by the Good Spirit. týpes and ideal events, had unconsciously, and In the mean time, the scene changed to a with a prophetic spirit, reproduced the reality stately palace, gorgeously furnished, with soft and life in his immediate surroundings. Digmusic, and tables spread with all dainties. by-Comus attempted once more to prevail

Comus appeared with his rabble and the upon Alice to drink from the enchanted glass, lady seated in an enchanted chair, to whom he and lavished the most hypocritical and false offered his glass, which she put by, and at representations upon her, but she'spurned him terapted to rise; but the wizard waved his with virtuous indignation. She said to him: wand, and she sank back into her chair. The

Hence with thy brewed enchantments, foul detwo leading persons played with great natural ceiver!

Hast thou betrayed my credulous innocence ness, for life and reality mingled with their ar

With visored falsehood and base forgery; tistic performance. · Already behind the scene,

And wouldst thou seek again to trap me here

With lickerish baits, fit to ensnare a brute ? Digby had renewed his efforts to gain Alice's

Were it a draught for Juno when she banquets, favor by his flattery and homage; but she had, I would not taste thy treasonous offer. as heretofore, turned a deaf ear to him. He

Comus. followed her even on the stage with his im O foolishness of men ! that lend their ears portunities, which she rejected with lively in

To those budge doctors of the stoic fur,

And fetch their precepts from the cynic tub, dignation. Thus the poet's words, which both Praising the lean and sallow abstinence! emphasized in accordance with their real feel

Wherefore did Nature pour her bounties forth

With such a full and unwithdrawing hand, ings, received a special significance. The Covering the earth with odors, fruits, and flocks,

[ocr errors]

Thronging the seas with spawn innumerable,
But all to please and sate the curious taste ?
And set to work millions of spinning-worms,
That in their green shops weave the smooth-haired

To deck her sons; and, that po corner might
Be vacant of her plenty, in her own loins
She hutched the all-worshipped ore and precious

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 unthanked, would be un.

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 surcharged with her own

And strangled with her waste fertility;
The earth cumbered, and the winged air darked

with plumes, The herds would over-multitude their lords, The sea o'erfraught would swell, and the unsought

diamonds 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 To gaze upon the sun with shameless brows. List, lady ; be not coy, and be not cozened With that fame-vaunted name, virginity. Beauty is Nature's coin, must not be hoarded, But must be current; and the good thereof Consists in mutual and partaken bliss, Unsavory in the enjoyment of itself; If you let slip time, like a neglected rose, It withers on the stalk with languished head. Beauty is Nature's brag, and must be shown In courts, at feasts, and high solemnities, Where most may wonder at the workmanship; It is for homely features to keep home, They had their name thence; coarse complexions, And cheeks of sorry grain, will serve to ply The sampler, and to tease the housewife's wool. What need a vermeil-tinctured lip for that, Love-darting eyes, or tresses like the morn? There was another meaning in these gifts ; Think what, and be advised; you are but young yet.

Of that which lewdly-pampered luxury
Now heaps upon some few with vast excess,
Nature's full blessings would be well dispensed
In unsuperfluous even proportion,
And she no whit encumbered with her store;
And then the Giver would be better thanked,
His praise due paid : for swinish gluttony
Ne'er looks to Heaven amidst his gorgeous feast,
But with besotted, base ingratitude
Crams, and blasphcmes his feeders. Shall I go on,
Or have I said enow? To him that dares
Arm his profane tongue with contemptuous words
Against the sun-clad power of chastity,
Fain would I something say; yet to what end?
Thou hast nor ear nor soul to apprehend
The sublime notion and high mystery,
That must be uttered to unfold the sage
And serious doctrine of virginity;
And thou art worthy that thou shouldst not know
More happiness than this thy present lot.
Enjoy your dear wit and gay rhetoric,
That hath so well been taught her dazzling fence;
Thou art not fit to hear thyself convinced;
Yet should I try, the uncontrolled work
Of this pure cause would kindle my rapt spirit
To such a flame of sacred vehemence
That dumb things would be moved to sympathize
And the brute Earth would lend her nerves, and

Till all thy magic structures, reared so high,
Were sbattered into heaps o'er thy false head.


Come, no more; This is mere moral babble, and direct Against the canon-laws of our foundation : I must not suffer this; yet 'tis but the lees And settlings of a melancholy blood ;. But this will cure all straight; one sip of this Will bathe the drooping spirits in delight, Beyond the bliss of dreams. Be wise, and taste."

The Spirit made another attempt inducing Alice to drink from his glass, but she refused, and pushed back his hand. Suddenly the brothers rushed in with swords drawn, wrested his glass out of his band, and broke it against the ground. His rout made sign of resistance, but all were driven in. At the same time the Attendant Spirit came in again. He blamed the brothers for letting the false enchanter escape by not snatching his wand. He said:

Without his rod reversed, And backward mutters of dissevering power, We cannot free the lady that sits here In stony fetters fixed, and motionless; Yet stay; be not disturbed; now I bethink me, Some other means I have which may be used." He told them that their sister could be freed

Alice. I had not thought to have unlocked my lips In this unballowed air, but that this juggler Would think to charm my judgment, as mine eyes, Obtruding false rules, pranked in reason's garb. I hate when Vice can bolt her arguments, And Virtue has no tongue to check her pride. Impostor I do not charge most innocent Nature, As if she would her children should be riotous With her abundance; she, good cateress, Means her provision only to the good, That live according to her sober laws, And holy dictate of spare temperance; If every just man, that now pines with want, Had but a moderate and beseeming share

from the spell only by the nymph Sabrina. She can teach ye how to climb

Higher than the sphery chime; Upon his adjuration, there appeared the nymph

Or, if Virtue feeble were, herself, represented by Lucy Henderson. Fab Heaven itself would stoop to her.' ulous sea-monsters drew the gilded car in which the girl was seated in the dress which we have already described. Her appearance drew a murmur of applause from the audience, which

CHAPTER XVII, expressed its satisfaction even more emphati

SIR KENELM DIGBY FOILED. cally when she rose and sang in a silvery voice:

All concurred in praising the poem with

great enthusiasm. Milton was surrounded by “Shepherd, 'tis my office best To help ensnared Chastity;

the whole audience, extolling the beauties of Brightest lady, look on me.

his creation. The lord president and his wife Thus I sprinkle on thy breast Drops, that from my mountain pure

thanked him in the most flattering manner, I have kept, of precious cure;

and Alice approached him likewise to give vent Thrice upon thy finger's tip, Thrice upon thy rubied lip;

to the delight with wbich the mask had filled Next this marble venomed seat,

her. His triumph was also her own, and the saSmeared with gums of glutinous heat, I touch with chaste palms moist and cold;

tisfaction which she felt lent new charms to the Now the spell hath lost his hold;

lovely girl. Flushed with the purest enthusiAnd I must haste, ere morning hour, To wait in Amphitrite's bower."

asm, she dropped her former reserve; she was.

carried away, and betrayed, in spite of herself, Sabrina descended amid the sweet notes of

her most secret thoughts and feelings. Hence, gentle music, and Alice rose out of her seat.

the marked coolness with which the poet treated The scene changed, presenting Ludlow town

her, impressed her only the more painfully. and the president's castle. Then came in

He seemed to avoid being alone with her, and country dancers; after them the Attendant

even conversing long with her. Alice could no Spirit, with the two brothers. The Spirit pre- longer bear this treatment, which bewildered sented them to their father and mother, say- and almost maddened her; she made up her

mind to obtain an explanation from him at any “Noble lord and lady bright, I have brought ye new delight;

cost, but neither the place nor the time favored Here behold so goodly grown,

her purpose. She was soon called away from Three fairy branches of your own; Heaven háth timely tried their youth,

his side and drawn into the whirl of the festival. Their faith, their patience, and their truth; A sumptuous banquet took place after the And sent them here through hard assays, With a crown of deathless praise,

mask was at an end, and a ball concluded the To triumph in victorious dance

festivities of the day. The dancers moved O’er sensual folly and intemperance."

around the brilliantly-illuminated hall, and Finally, King took leave of the audience in Alice, the daughter of the house and leading the following epilogue:

belle of the occasion, could not absent herself "But now my task is smoothly done,

from the ball. Notwithstanding her relucI can fly, or I can run,

tance, she danced with Digby,who did not leave Quickly to the green earth's end,

her a moment, and displayed all his seductive Where the bowed welkin slow doth bend; And from thence can soar as soon

wiles. It was only for the purpose of escaping To the corners of the moon.

his importunities that she received much more Mortals, that would follow me, Love Virtue; she alone is free;

readily than usual the homage which Edward


« VorigeDoorgaan »