Imatges de pÓgina






Part of an Entertainment presented to the Countess Dowager of Derby,† at Harefield, by some noble persons of her family; who appear on the scene in pastoral habit, moving toward the seat of state, with this song:


Look, nymphs and shepherds, look,
What sudden blaze of majesty
Is that which we from hence descry,
Too divine to be mistook :

This, this is she

To whom our vows and wishes bend;
Here our solemn search hath end.
Fame, that, her high worth to raise,
Seem'd erst so lavish and profuse,
We may justly now accuse
Of detraction from her praise:
Less than half we find express'd;
Envy bid conceal the rest.

Mark, what radiant state she spreads,
In circle round her shining throne,
Shooting her beams like silver threads;
This, this is she alone,

Sitting like a goddess bright,
In the centre of her light.
Might she the wise Latona be,
Or the tower'd Cybele




The same character may be given of the style, sentiments, imagery, and tone of these Fragments, as far as they go, as of Comus. Warton observes,-" Unquestionably this Mask was a much longer performance. Milton seems only to have written the poetical part, consisting of these three songs, and the recitative soliloquy of the Genius: the rest was probably prose and machinery, and the whole was acted by persons of Lady Derby's own family."

Milton is not the only great English poet who has celebrated this Countess Dowager of Derby. She was the sixth daughter of Sir John Spenser, with whose family Spenser the poet claimed an alliance. In his "Colin Clout's come Home again," (written about 1595,) he mentions her under the appellation of Amaryllis, with her sister Phyllis or Elizabeth, and Charillis or Anne: and in the dedication to her, of his "Tears of the Muscs," he acknowledges the particular bounties she had conferred upon himself and other poets. Thus the lady who presided at the representation of Milton's Arcades, was not only the theme, but the patroness of Spenser.

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Mother of a hundred gods?

Juno dares not give her odds.

Who had thought this clime had held

A deity so unparallel'd?

As they come forward, the Genius of the wood appears, and, turning towards them, speaks:—

GEN. Stay, gentle swains; for, though in this disguise,

I see bright honour sparkle through your eyes;
Of famous Arcady ye are, and sprung
Of that renowned flood, so often sung,
Divine Alphéus, who by secret sluice
Stole under seas to meet his Arethuse;
And ye, the breathing roses of the wood,

Fair silver-buskin'd nymphs, as great and good;
I know, this quest of yours, and free intent,
Was all in honour and devotion meant
To the great mistress of yon princely shrine,
Whom with low reverence I adore as mine;
And, with all helpful service, will comply
To further this night's glad solemnity;
And lead ye, where ye may more near behold
What shallow-searching Fame hath left untold;
Which I full oft, amidst these shades alone,
Have sat to wonder at, and gaze upon:
For know, by lot from Jove I am the power
Of this fair wood, and live in oaken bower,
To nurse the saplings tall, and curl the grove
With ringlets quaint, and wanton windings wove
And all my plants I save from nightly ill
Of noisome winds, and blasting vapours chill:
And from the boughs brush off the evil dew,
And heal the harms of thwarting thunder blue,
Or what the cross dire-looking planet smites,
Or hurtful worm with canker'd venom bites.
When evening gray doth rise, I fetch my round
Over the mount, and all this hallow'd ground;
And early, ere the odorous breath of morn
Awakes the slumbering leaves, or tassell'd horn

23. Give her odds. This certainly seems no very elegant phrase, but it was a mode of compliment usual in Milton's time.TODD.

26. Stay, &c. That is, though ye (the actors being of Lady Derby's own family) are disguised like rustics, and wear the habit of shepherds, I perceive ye are of honourable birth, your nobility cannot be concealed.

28. Arcady. The inhabitants of Arcadia, in the Peloponnesus, were devoted to pastoral life; and hence the scene of many ancient pastoral poems, as well as of Sir Philip Sidney's "Arcadia," is laid there. Hence, of course, the name of







this pastoral fragment of a Mask by our author.

31. Arethuse. It was fabled that Arethusa, a nymph, and one of Diana's attendants, being pursued by the river-god Alpheus, was changed into a fountain, and flowed under the earth across the Adriatic, and came up at Ortygia, an island in the bay of Syracuse.

34. Quest: Inquiry, search. 44. By lot: By allotment. 46. To curl: To dress with curls. 57. Tassell'd horn. So Spenser, (Faerie Queene, i. viii. 3:)

A horn of bugle small, Which hung adowne his side in twisted gold And tassels gay.

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