Page images
PDF
EPUB

received another tribute of regard from Mr. Mason : in Lawes's Song to Echo, he has very skilfully altered or improved the bass, and modernised the melody. T. Warton.

ORIGIN OF COMUS. IN Fletcher's Faithful Shepherdess, an Arcadian comedy recently published, Milton found many touches of pastoral and superstitious imagery, congenial with his own conceptions. Many of these, yet with the highest improvements, he has transferred into Comus; together with the general cast and colouring of the piece. He catched also from the lyric rhymes of Fletcher, that Dorique delicacy, with which Sir Henry Wotton was so much delighted in the Songs of Milton's drama. Fletcher's comedy was coldly received the first night of its performance. But it had ample revenge in this conspicuous and indisputable mark of Milton's approbation. It was afterwards represented as a Mask at court, before the King and Queen on twelfth-night, in 1633. I know not, indeed, if this was any recommendation to Milton; who in the Paradise Lost speaks contemptuously of these interludes, which had been among the chief diversions of an elegant and liberal monarch. B. iv. 767. (where see the note.) I believe the whole compliment was paid to the genius of Fletcher.

The ingenious and accurate Mr. Reed has pointed out a rude outline, from which Milton seems partly to have sketched the plan of the fable of Comus. See Biograph. Dramat. ii. p. 441. It is an old play, with this title, “ The old Wives' Tale, a pleasant conceited

Comedie, plaid by the Queens Maiesties players. Written by “G.P.[i. e. George Peele.] Printed at London by John Danter, and “ are to be sold by Ralph Hancocke and John Hardie, 1595." In quarto. This very scarce and curious piece exhibits, among other parallel incidents, two Brothers wandering in quest of their Sister, whom an Enchanter had imprisoned. This magician had learned his art from his mother Meroe, as Comus had been instructed by his mother Circe. The Brothers call out on the Lady's name, and Echo replies to their call. They find too late their Sister is under the captivity of a wicked magician, and that she had tasted his cup of oblivion. In the close, after the wreath is torn from the magician's head, and he is disarmed and killed, by a Spirit in the shape and character of a beautiful page of fifteen years old, she still remains subject to the magician's inchantment. But in a subsequent scene the Spirit enters, and declares, that the Sister cannot be delivered but by a Lady, who is neither maid, wife, nor widow. The Spirit blows a magical horn, and the Lady appears; she dissolves the charm, by breaking a glass, and extinguishing a light. A curtain is withdrawn, and the Sister is scen seated and asleep.

She is disinchanted and restored to her senses, having been spoken to thrice. She then rejoins her Two Brothers, with whom she returns home; and the Boy-spirit vanishes under the earth. The magician is here called “ inchanter vile," as in Comus, v. 906.

The names of some of the characters, as Sacrapant, Chorebus, and others, are taken from the Orlando Furioso. The history of Meroe a witch, may be seen in “ The xi Bookes of the Golden Asse, containing the Metamorphosie of Lucius Apuleius inter“ laced with sundrie pleasant and delectable Tales, &c. Translated “ out of Latin into English by William Adlington, Lond. 1566." See chap. iii.“ How Socrates in his returne from Macedony to “ Larissa was spoyled and robbed, and how he fell acquainted with

one Meroe a witch." And chap. iv. “ How Meroe the witch “ turned divers persons into miserable beasts.” Of this book there were other editions, in 1571, 1596, 1600, and 1639. All in quarto and the black letter. The translator was of University College. See also Apuleius in the original. That Milton had his eye on this ancient drama, which might have been the favourite of his early youth, perhaps it may be at least affirmed with as much credibility, as that he conceived the Paradise Lost, from seeing a Mystery at Florence, written by Andreini a Florentine in 1617, entitled Adamo.

In the mean time it must be confessed, that Milton's magician Comus, with his cup and wand, is ultimately founded on the fable of Circe. The effects of both characters are much the same. They are both to be opposed at first with force and violence. Circe is subdued by the virtues of the herb Moly which Mercury gives to Ulysses, and Comus by the plant Hæmony which the Spirit gives to the two Brothers. About the year 1615, a Masque called the Inner Temple Masque, written by William Browne author of Brilannia's Pastorals, which I have frequently cited, was presented by the students of the Inner Temple. See note on Com. v. 232. 636. 659. It has been lately printed from a manuscript in the Library of Emanuel College; but I have been informed, that a few copies were printed soon after the presentation. It is formed on the story of Circe, and perhaps might have suggested some few hints to Milton. I will give some proofs of parallelism as we go along.

The genius of the best poets is often determined, if not directed, by circumstance and accident. It is natural, that even so original a writer as Milton should have been biassed by the reigning poetry of the day, by the composition most in fashion, and by subjects recently brought forward, but soon giving way to others, and almost as soon totally neglected and forgotten. T. Warton.

[merged small][ocr errors]

A MASK.

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 aereal spirits live inspher'd

Milton has here more pro

Noble, courageous, high, unmatch. fessedly imitated the manner of

able, Shakespeare in his fairy scenes

Where Cæsar's is not; but near him

thy angel than in any other of his works:

Becomes a fear.and his poem is much the better for it, not only for the beauty, The expressions, however, are variety, and novelty of his images, literally from North’s Plutarch. but for a brighter vein of poetry, See also Spenser's Ruins of Rome, and an ease and delicacy of ex- st. 27. pression very superior to his na- The Spirit's prologue, which tural manner. Warburton. opens the business of the drama, 1. Before the starry threshold is introduced after the manner &c.] This character of the at- of the Greek tragedy. He might, tendant Spirit is formed upon however, have avoided any apthat of Ariel in the Tempest, but plication to an audience, as at v. very much heightened and im- 43. See, among others, the proproved by Milton, who was well logues to the Hecuba, Hippolytus, acquainted with the Platonic and Iphigenia in Tauris, of Eunotions of spirits or demons; ripides. T. Warton. and in Milton's manuscript this 3. Of bright aereal spirits live personage is entitled a Guardian inspher'd.] In Il Penseroso, the Spirit or Demon.

spirit of Plato was to be unsphered, 1. Demon is used for spirit, v. 88. That is, to be called down and also for angel, in Antony and from the sphere to which it had Clcopatra, act ii. s. 3.

been allotted, where it had been Thy demon, that's thy spirit, which insphered: the word occurs exkeeps thee, is

actly in the same sense in Dray

5

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 pinfold here,

gor' oußen

ton, on his mistress, vol. iv. p. His uninchanted eye: around the 1352.

verge

And sacred limits of this blissful isle Whereas I will insphere her

The jealous ocean that old river winds In regions high and starry.

His far-extended arms, till with steep

fall Compare Par. L. vii. 247. T.

Half his waste flood the wide Atlantic Warton.

fills, 4. In regions mild of calm and And half the slow unfathom'd Stygian serene air,] Alluding probably pool. to Homer's happy seats of the

But soft, I was not sent to court your

wonder gods, Odyss. vi. 42.

With distant worlds and strange re-Εθι φασι θεων έδoς ασφαλες αιει

moved climes. Εμμεναι· ουτ' ανεμοισι τινασσεται, ουτε

Yet thence I come, and oft from

thence behold Διυεται, ουτε χιων επιπιλναται: αλλα

The smoke and stir of this dim narμαλ' αιθρη

row spot, &c. Nestatus avepsdos, asuun d'stidadgopese These lines, I think, may serve αιγλη.

as a specimen of the truth of Which verses Lucretius has ex

what Waller says, cellently copied, iii. 18.

Poets lose half the praise they should Apparet Divûm numen, sedesque have got, quietæ;

Could it be known what they dis. Quas neque concutiunt venti, neque

creetly blot. mubila nimbis Adspergunt; neque nix acri concreta 5. this dim spot, pruine

Which men call Earth,] Cana cadens violat; semperque innu.

As Adam speaks to the angel, bilus æther Integit, et large diffuso lumine ridet.

Par. L. viii. 17. See Lucan too at the beginning this Earth, a spot, a grain, of book the ninth, concerning the

An atom, &c.

Round this opacous Earth, this puncdeparted soul of Pompey. After this line Milton had inserted

T. Warlon. these which follow, and scratched them out again in his manu- 7. Confin'd, and pester'd in this script.

pinfold here,] Pinfold is now proAmidst th' Hesperian gardens, on

vincial, and signifies sometimes whose banks

a sheepfold, but most commonly Bedew'd with nectar and celestial a pound. It occurs seemingly songs

in the first sense in Spenser's Eternal roses grow, and hyacinth,

Ireland. Our author calls the And fruits of golden rind, on whose fair tree

Liturgy “a pinfold of set words." The scaly-harness'd dragon ever keeps Pr. W. i. 413. Compare Fair

tual spot.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »