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What might this be? A thousand fantasies
Begin to throng into my memory,
Of calling shapes, and beckoning shadows dire,
And aery tongues, that syllable men's names
On sands, and shores, and desert wildernesses.
These thoughts may startle well, but not astound 210
The virtuous mind, that ever walks attended
By a strong siding champion, conscience.
0, welcome, pure-eyed faith, white-handed hope,
Thou hovering angel, girt with golden wings,
And thou unblemish'd form of chastity!
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 aery 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 ?
O, if thou have
Hid them in some flowery cave,
Tell me but where,
Sweet queen of parley, daughter of the sphere !
So may'st 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, 260 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. 270
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 bereft you thus?
Lady. Dim darkness, in this leafy labyrinth.
Comus. Could that divide you from near-ushering
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
Comus. Perhaps forestalling night prevented them.
Lady. How easy my misfortune is to hit!
Comus. Imports there loss, beside the present need?
Lady. No less than if I should my brothers lose.
Comus. Were they of manly prime, or youthful
289 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 vision
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 out that, 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. 310
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
320 Till further quest.
Lady. 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. 330
Enter the Two BROTHERS. First Br. Unmuffle, ye faint stars; and thou, fair That wont'st to love the traveller's benison, [moon, 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-levell'd rule of streaming light, 340 And thou shalt be our star of Arcady, Or Tyrian cynosure. Sec. Br.
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, O, that hapless virgin, our lost sister! 350
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,