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COMUS.

A MASK.

THE PERSONS. The attendant Spirit, afterwards

The Lady in the habit of THYRSIS.

First Brother. COMUs, with his Crew

Second Brother.

SABRINA, the Nymph,

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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,
Confined and pester'd in this pinfold here,
Strive to keep up a frail and feverish being,
Unmindful of the crown that Virtue gives,
After this mortal change, to her true servants,
Amongst the enthroned gods on sainted seats.
Yet some there be that, by due steps, aspire
To lay their just hands on that golden key,
That opes the palace of eternity :
To such my errand is : and, but for such
I would not soil these pure ambrosial weeds
With the rank vapours of this sin-worn mould.

But to my task. Neptune, besides the sway
Of every salt flood, and each ebbing stream,
Took in by lot 'twixt high and nether Jove, 20
Imperial rule of all the sea-girt isles,
That, like to rich and various gems, inlay
The unadorned bosom of the deep,
Which he, to grace his tributary gods,
By course commits to several government,
And gives them leave to wear their sapphire crowns,
And wield their little tridents : but this isle,
The greatest and the best of all the main,
He quarters to his blue-hair'd deities;
And all this tract that fronts the falling sun,
A noble peer, of mickle trust and power,
Has in his charge, with temper'd awe to guide

20

30

Where his fair offspring, nursed in princely lore,
Are coming to attend their father's state,
And new-intrusted sceptre; but their way
Lies through the perplex'd paths of this drear wood,

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The nodding horror of whose shady brows
Threats the forlorn and wandering passenger;
And here their tender age might suffer peril,
But that, by quick command from sovereign Jove,
I was dispatch'd for their defence and guard :
And listen why; for I will tell you now
What never yet was heard in tale or song,
From old or modern bard, in ball or bower.

Bacchus, that first from out the purple grape
Crush'd the sweet poison of misused wine,
After the Tuscan mariners transform’d,
Coasting the Tyrrhene shore, as the winds listed,
On Circe's island fell : (who knows not Circe,
The daughter of the sun, whose charmed cup
Whoever tasted, lost his upright shape,
And downward fell into a grovelling swine ?)
This nymph, that gazed upon his clustering locks,
With ivy berries wreathed, and his blithe youth,
Had by him, ere he parted thence, a son
Much like his father, but his mother more,
Whom, therefore, she brought up, and Comus named :
Who, ripe and frolic of his full-grown age,
Roving the Celtic and Iberian fields,
At last betakes him to this ominous wood,
And, in thick shelter of black shades imbower'd,
Excels his mother at her mighty art,
Offering, to every weary traveller,
His orient liquor in a crystal glass,
To quench the drought of Phoebus; which as they taste
(For most do taste, through fond intemperate thirst),
Soon as the potion works, their human countenance,
The express resemblance of the gods, is changed
Into some brutish form of wolf, or bear,

70 Or ounce, or tiger, hog, or bearded goat,

VOL. II.

60

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