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I see ye visibly, and now believe
That he, the Supreme Good, to whom all things ill
Are but as slavish officers of vengeance,
Would send a glistering guardian, if need were,
To keep my life and honour unassail'd.
Was I deceived, 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 halloo to my brothers, but
Such noise as I can make to be heard farthest
I'll venture ; for my new-enliven'd spirits
Prompt me; and they perhaps are not far off.
Sweet Echo, sweetest nymph, that livest unseen
Within thy aëry shell,
By slow Meander's margent green,
And in the violet-embroider'd vale,
Where the love-lorn nightingale
Nightly to thee her sad song mourneth well ;
Canst thou not tell me of a gentle pair
That likest thy Narcissus are?
Oh, if thou have
Hid them in some flowery cave,
Tell me but where,
Sweet queen of parley, daughter of the sphere!
So mayst thou be translated to the skies,
And give resounding grace to all heaven's harmonies.
Enter COMUS. 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 hidden residence. How sweetly did they float upon the wings Of silence, through the empty-vaulted night, At every fall smoothing the raven-down Of darkness till it smiled! I have oft heard My mother Circe, with the Syrens three, Amidst the flowery-kirtled Naiades, Culling their potent herbs, and baleful drugs, Who, as they sung, would take the prison'd soul, And lap it in Elysium ; Scylla wept, And chid her barking waves into attention, And fell Charybdis murmur'd soft applause: Yet they in pleasing slumber lull’d the sense, And in sweet madness robb’d it of itself; But such a sacred and home-felt delight, Such sober certainty of waking bliss,
I never heard till now. I'll speak to her,
And she shall be my queen. Hail, foreign wonder!
Whom certain these rough shades did never breed,
Unless the goddess that in rural shrine
Dwell'st here with Pan, or Sylvan, by blest song
Forbidding every bleak unkindly fog
To touch the prosperous growth of this tall wood.
Lady. Nay, gentle shepherd, ill is lost that praise
That is address'd to unattending ears ;
Not any boast of skill, but extreme shift
How to regain my sever'd company,
Compelld me to awake the courteous Echo
To give me answer from her mossy couch.
Comus. What chance, good lady, hath berest you thus ?
Lady. Dim darkness, and this leafy labyrinth.
Comus. Could that divide you from near-ushering guides?
Lady. They left me weary on a grassy turf.
Comus. By falsehood, or discourtesy, or why?
Lady. To seek i' the valley some cool friendly spring.
Comus. And left your fair side all unguarded, lady?
Lady. They were but twain, and purposed quick return.
Comus. Perhaps forestalling night prevented them.
Lady. How easy my misfortune is to hit !
Comus. Imports their loss, beside the present need ?
Lady. No less than if I should my brothers lose.
Comus. Were they of manly prime, or youthful bloom ?
Lady. As smooth as Hebe's their unrazor'd lips.
Comus. Two such I saw, what time the labour'd ox
In his loose traces from the furrow came,
And the swink'd hedger at his supper sat ;
I saw them under a green mantling vine
That crawls along the side of yon small hill,
Plucking ripe clusters from the tender shoots ;
Their port was more than human, as they stood :
I took it for a faery viston
Of some gay creatures of the element,
That in the colours of the rainbow live,
And play i' the plighted clouds. I was awe-struck,
And, as I pass’d, I worshipp'd ; if those you seek,
It were a journey like the path to heaven,
To help you find them.
What readiest way would bring me to that place ?
Comus. Due west it rises from this shrubby point.
Lady. To find that out, good shepherd, I suppose,
In such a scant allowance of star-light,
Would overtask the best land-pilot's art,
Without the sure guess of well-practised feet.
Comus. I know each lane, and every alley green,
Dingle, or bushy dell, of this wild wood,
And every bosky bourn from side to side,
My daily walks and ancient neighbourhood;
And if your stray attendants be yet lodged,
Or shroud within these limits, I shall know
Ere morrow wake, or the low-roosted lark
From her thatch'd pallet rouse ; if otherwise,
I can conduct you, lady, to a low
But loyal cottage, where you may be safe
Till further quest.
Shepherd, I take thy word,
And trust thy honest-offer'd courtesy,
Which oft is sooner found in lowly sheds,
With smoky rafters, than in tapestry halls,
And courts of princes, where it first was named,
And yet is most pretended : in a place
Less warranted than this, or less secure,
I cannot be, that I should fear to change it.
Eye me, blest Providence, and square my trial
To my proportion'd strength. Shepherd, lead on.
Enter The Two BROTHERS.
First Br. Unmuffle, ye faint stars, and thou, fair moon,
That wont'st to love the traveller's benison,
Stoop thy pale visage through an amber cloud,
And disinherit Chaos, that reigns here
In double night of darkness and of shades;
Or, if your influence be quite damm'd up
With black usurping mists, some gentle taper,
Though a rush-candle, from the wicker-hole
Of some clay habitation, visit us
With thy long-levellid rule of streaming light,
And thou shalt be our star of Arcady,
Or Tyrian cynosure.
Or if our eyes
Be barr'd that happiness, might we but hear
The folded flocks penn'd in their wattled cotes,
Or sound of pastoral reed with oaten stops,
Or whistle from the lodge, or village cock
Count the night watches to his feathery dames,
'Twould be some solace yet, some little cheering,
In this close dungeon of innumerous boughs.
But, oh, that hapless virgin, our lost sister,
Where may she wander now, whither betake her
From the chill dew, among rude burs and thistles ?
Perhaps some cold bank is her bolster now,
Or 'gainst the rugged bark of some broad elm
Leans her unpillow'd head, fraught with sad fears.
What, if in wild amazement and affright,
Or, while we speak, within the direful grasp
Of savage hunger, or of savage heat ?
First Br. Peace, brother, be not over-exquisite
To cast the fashion of uncertain evils;
For, grant they be so, while they rest unknown,
What need a man forestall his date of grief,
And run to ineet what he would most avoid ?
Or if they be but false alarms of fear,
How bitter is such self-delusion !
I do not think my sister so to seek,
Or so unprincipled in virtue's book,
And the sweet peace that goodness bosoms ever,
As that the single want of light and noise
(Not being in danger, as I trust she is not)
Could stir the constant mood of her calm thoughts,
And put them into misbecoming plight.
Virtue could see to do what virtue would,
By her own radiant light, though sun and moon
Were in the flat sea sunk. And Wisdom's self
Oft seeks to sweet retired solitude,
Where, with her best nurse, Contemplation,
She plumes her feathers, and lets grow her wings,
That in the various bustle of resort
Were all-to ruffled, and sometimes impair’d.
He that has light within his own clear breast,
May sit i' the centre, and enjoy bright day :
But he that hides a dark soul and foul thoughts,
Benighted walks under the mid-day sun ;
Himself is his own dungeon.
'Tis most true,
That musing meditation most affects
The pensive secresy of desert cell,
Far from the cheerful haunt of men and herds,
And sits as safe as in a senate-house ;
For who would rob a hermit of his weeds,
His few books, or his beads, or maple dish,
Or do his
any violence ?
But beauty, like the fair Hesperian tree
Laden with blooming gold, had need the guard
Of dragon-watch with unenchanted eye,
To save her blossoms, and defend her fruit
From the rash hand of bold incontinence.
You may as well spread out the unsunn’d heaps
Of miser's treasure by an outlaw's den,
And tell me it is safe, as bid me hope
Danger will wink on opportunity,
And let a single helpless maiden pass
Vninjured in this wild surrounding waste.
Of night, or loneliness, it recks me not;
I fear the dread events that dog them both,
Lest some ill-greeting touch attempt the person
Of our unowned sister.
I do not, brother,
Infer, as if I thought my sister's state
Secure, without all doubt or controversy ;
Yet, where an equal poise of hope and fear
Does arbitrate the event, my nature is
That I incline to hope, rather than fear,
And gladly banish squint suspicion.
My sister is not so defenceless left,
As you imagine ; she has a hidden strength,
Which you remember not.
What hidden strength,
Unless the strength of Heaven, if you mean that?
First Br. I mean that too, but yet a hidden strength, Which, if Heaven gave it, may be term'd her own; 'Tis chastity, my brother, chastity : She that has that is clad in complete steel, And, like a quiver'd nymph, with arrows keen, May trace huge forests, and unharbour'd 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 shagg’d with horrid shades, She may pass on with unblench'd 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. Do ye believe me yet, or shall I call Antiquity from the old schools of Greece, To testify the arms of chastity? Hence had the huntress Dian her dread bow, Fair silver-shafted queen, for ever chaste, Wherewith she tamed the brinded lioness And spotted mountain-pard, but set at nought The frivolous bolt of Cupid ; gods and men Feard her stern frown, and she was queen o' the woods. What was that snaky-headed Gorgon shield That wise Minerva wore, unconquer'd virgin, Wherewith she freezed her foes to congeai'd stone, But rigid looks of chaste austerity, And noble grace, that dash'd brute violence With sudden adoration and blank awe? 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 Begin 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,