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Within the navel of this hideous wood, Immured in cypress shades, a sorcerer dwells, Of Bacchus and of Circe born, great Comus, Deep skill'd in all his mother's witcheries; And here to every thirsty wanderer By sly enticement gives his baneful cup, With many murmurs mix'd, whose pleasing poison The visage quite transforms of him that drinks, And the inglorious likeness of a beast Fixes instead, unmoulding reason's mintage Character'd in the face: this have I learn'd Tending my flocks hard by i' the hilly crofts, That brow this bottom glade; whence, night by night, He and his monstrous rout are heard to howl, Like stabled wolves, or tigers at their prey, Doing abhorred rites to Hecate, In their obscured haunts of inmost bowers. Yet have they many baits and guileful spells, To inveigle and invite the unwary sense Of them that pass unweeting by the way. This evening late, by then the chewing flocks Had ta’en their supper on the savoury herb Of knot-grass dew-besprent, and were in fold, I sat me down to watch upon a bank With ivy canopied, and interwove With flaunting honeysuckle, and began, Rapt in a pleasing fit of melancholy, To meditate my rural minstrelsy, Till fancy had her fill; but, ere a close, The wonted roar was up amidst the woods, And fill'd the air with barbarous dissonance; 550 At which I ceased, and listen'd them awhile, Till an unusual stop of sudden silence Gave respite to the drowsy-flighted steeds VOL. II.
That draw the litter of close-curtain'd sleep:
At last, a soft and solemn breathing sound
Rose like a steam of rich distill’d perfumes,
the air, that even silence
Was took ere she was ware, and wish'd she might
Deny her nature, and be never more,
Still to be so displaced. I was all ear,
And took in strains that might create a soul
Under the ribs of death: but, oh! ere long,
Too well I did perceive it was the voice
Of my most honour'd lady, your dear sister.
Amazed I stood, harrow'd with grief and fear,
And, O poor hapless nightingale, thought I,
How sweet thou sing'st, how near the deadly snare!
Then down the lawns I ran with headlong haste,
Through paths and turnings often trod by day,
Till, guided by mine ear, I found the place 570
Where that damn'd wizard, hid in sly disguise
(For so by certain signs I knew), had met
Already, ere my best speed could prevent,
The aidless innocent lady, his wish'd prey,
Who gently ask'd if he had seen such two,
Supposing him some neighbour villager.
Longer I durst not stay, but soon I guess'd
Ye were the two she meant; with that I sprung
Into swift flight, till I had found you here;
But further know I not.
O night, and shades!
How are ye join'd with hell in triple knot
Against the unarm'd weakness of one virgin,
Alone and helpless! Is this the confidence
You gave me, brother?
Gather'd like scum, and settled to itself,
It shall be in eternal restless change
Self-fed, and self-consumed: if this fail,
The pillar'd firmament is rottenness,
And earth’s base built on stubble. But come, let's on.
Against the opposing will and arm of Heaven 600
May never this just sword be lifted up;
But for that damn'd magician, let him be girt
With all the grisly legions that troop
Under the sooty flag of Acheron,
Harpies and hydras, or all the monstrous forms
'Twixt Africa and Ind, I'll find him out,
And force him to return his purchase back,
Or drag him by the curls to a foul dea
Cursed as his life.
Alas! good venturous youth,
I love thy courage yet, and bold emprise ;
610 But here thy sword can do thee little stead; Far other arms and other weapons must Be those that quell the might of hellish charms : He with his bare wand can unthread thy joints, And crumble all thy sinews. First Br.
Why, prithee, shepherd,
How durst thou then thyself approach so near,
As to make this relation ?
Care, and utmost shifts,
How to secure the lady from surprisal,
Brought to my mind a certain shepherd lad,
Of small regard to see to, yet well skill'd
In every virtuous plant, and healing herb,
That spreads her verdant leaf to the morning ray;
He loved me well, and oft would beg me sing,
Which, when I did, he on the tender grass
Would sit, and hearken even to ecstasy;
And, in requital, ope bis leathern scrip,
And show me simples of a thousand names,
Telling their strange and vigorous faculties.
Amongst the rest, a small unsightly root,
But of divine effect, he cull’d me out;
The leaf was darkish, and had prickles on it,
But in another country, as he said,
Bore a bright golden flower, but not in this soil :
Unknown, and like esteem'd, and the dull swain
Treads on it daily with his clouted shoon:
And yet more medicinal is it than that moly,
That Hermes once to wise Ulysses gave.
He call’d it hæmony, and gave it me,
And bade me keep it as of sovereign use
'Gainst all enchantments, mildew, blast, or damp, 640
Or ghastly furies' apparition.
I pursed it up, but little reckoning made,
Till now that this extremity compellid;
But now I find it true; for by this means
I knew the foul enchanter, though disguised,
Enter'd the very lime-twigs of his spells,
And yet came off: if you have this about you
(As I will give you when we go), you may
Boldly assault the necromancer's hall;
Where if he be, with dauntless hardihood, 650
And brandish'd blade, rush on him; break his glass,
And shed the luscious liquor on the ground,
But seize his wand; though he and his cursed crew
Fierce sign of battle make, and menace high,
Or, like the sons of Vulcan, vomit smoke,
Yet will they soon retire, if he but shrink.
First Br. Thyrsis, lead on apace, I'll follow thee; And some good angel bear a shield before us.