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COMUS, A MASK.

PRESENTED AT LUDLOW CASTLE.

THE PERSONS.

The attendant Spirit, afterwards in the habit of THYRSIS.
COMUs with his crew.
The LADY.
First BROTHER.
Second BROTHER.
SABRINA the Nymph.

The chief persons who presented were
The Lord BRACKLEY.
Mr. Thomas EGERTON, his brother.
The Lady ALICE EGERTON.

COMUS, A MASK,

THE FIRST SCENE DISCOVERS A WILD WOOD.

The Attendant SPIRIT descends or enters.*

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BEFORE the starry threshold of Jove's court
My mansion is, where those immortal shapes
Of bright aerial spirits live inspher'd
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,
Strive to keep up a frail and feverish being,
Unmindful of the crown that virtue gives,
After this mortal change, to her true servants, 10

1

The Attendant Spirit] The Spirit is called 'Dæmon' in the Cambridge MS. Warton.

starry] • Who calls Minerva from the starry court.' Sharpe's Noble Stranger, p. 48. • In that high starry court.' Marino's Sl. of the Innocents, p. 130; and Cupid's Whirligig, p. 1.(1611.)

• And thus with winges, and bowe came I

Newly from Jove's high courte in skie.' 7 pester'd] Crowded. Ital. Pesta, a crowd. v. Hall's Sat. h. iv, s. 7. Todd,

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Amongst the enthron'd 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;
Tu 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
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
An old and haughty nation proud in arms:
Where his fair offspring, nurs'd 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, The nodding horror of whose shady brows Threats the forlorn and wandering passenger ;

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35 40

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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 hall 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 gaz'd upon his clust'ring locks, With ivy berries wreath’d, and his blithe youth, 55 Had by him, ere he parted thence, a son Much like his father, but his mother more, Whom therefore she brought up,and Comus nam’d: 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,

50 who knows] Spenser's Britain's Ida, c. i. st. 1.

• In Ida’s vale (who knows not Ida's vale). Todd. 58 Comus] Consult Warton's and Todd's note on the subject of Comus: from which we find, that though he had appeared as a dramatic personage before, Milton first raised him into poetical celebrity.

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