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What need a man forestal his date of grief,
And run to meet what he would most avoid ?
Or if they be but false alarms of fear,
How bitter is such self-delusion !
I do not think my sister so to seek,
Or so unprincipled in virtue's book,
And the sweet peace that goodness bosoms ever,
As that the single want of light and noise
(Not being in danger, as I trust she is not) 370
Could stir the constant mood of her calm thoughts,
And put them into misbecoming plight.
Virtue could see to do what virtue would,
By her own radiant light, though sun and moon
Were in the flat sea sunk. And wisdom's self
Oft seeks to sweet retired solitude,
Where, with her best nurse, contemplation,
She plumes her feathers, and lets grow her wings,
That, in the various bustle of resort,
Were all-to ruffled, and sometimes impair'd.
He that has light within his own clear breast
May sit i' the centre, and enjoy bright day:
But he that hides a dark soul and foul thoughts,
Benighted walks under the mid-day sun;
Himself in his own dungeon.
'Tis most true,
That musing meditation most affects
The pensive secrecy of desert cell,
Far from the cheerful haunt of men and herds,
And sits as safe as in a senate-house;
For who would rob a hermit of his weeds,
His few books, or his beads, or maple dish,
Or do his grey hairs any violence ?
But beauty, like the fair Hesperian tree,
Laden with blooming gold, had need the guard
Of dragon-watch, with unenchanted eye,
To save her blossoms, and defend her fruit,
From the rash hand of bold incontinence.
You may as well spread out the unsunn'd heaps
Of miser's treasure by an outlaw's den,
And tell me it is safe, as bid me hope
Danger will wink on opportunity,
And let a single helpless maiden pass
Uninjured in this wild surrounding waste.
Of night, or loneliness, it recks me not;
I fear the dread events that dog them both,
Lest some ill-greeting touch attempt the person
Of our unowned sister.
I do not, brother,
Infer, as if I thought my sister's state
Secure, without all doubt or controversy;
Yet, where an equal poise of hope and fear
Does arbitrate the event, my nature is
That I incline to hope, rather than fear,
And gladly banish squint suspicion.
My sister is not so defenceless left
As you imagine; she has a hidden strength,
Will dare to soil her virgin purity :
Yea, there, where very desolation dwells,
By grots and caverns shagg'd with horrid shades,
She may pass on with unblench'd majesty,
Be it not done in pride, or in presumption.
Some say, no evil thing that walks by night,
In fog or fire, by lake or moorish fen,
Blue meagre hag, or stubborn unlaid ghost
That breaks his magic chains at curfew time,
No goblin, or swart fairy of the mine,
Hath hurtful power o'er true virginity.
believe me yet, or shall I call
Antiquity from the old schools of Greece,
To testify the arms of chastity ?
Hence had the huntress Dian her dread bow,
Fair silver-shafted queen, for ever chaste,
Wherewith she tamed the brinded lioness
And spotted mountain-pard, but set at nought
The frivolous bolt of Cupid; gods and men
Feard her stern frown, and she was queen o' the woods.
What was that snaky-headed Gorgon shield
That wise Minerva wore, unconquer'd virgin,
Wherewith she freezed her foes to congeal'd stone,
But rigid looks of chaste austerity,
And noble grace, that dash'd brute violence
With sudden adoration and blank awe?
So dear to Heaven is saintly chastity,
That, when a soul is found sincerely so,
A thousand liveried angels lacquey her,
Driving far off each thing of sin and guilt ;
And, in clear dream and solemn vision,
Tell her of things that no gross ear can hear;
Till oft converse with heavenly habitants
Begin to cast a beam on the outward shape, 460
The unpolluted temple of the mind,
And turns it, by degrees, to the soul's essence,
Till all be made immortal : but when lust,
By unchaste looks, loose gestures, and foul talk,
But most by lewd and lavish act of sin,
Lets in defilement to the inward parts,
The soul grows clotted by contagion,
Imbodies, and imbrutes, till she quite lose
The divine property of her first being.
Such are those thick and gloomy shadows damp,
Oft seen in charnel vaults and sepulchres,
Lingering and sitting by a new-made grave,
As loth to leave the body that it loved,
And link'd itself, by carnal sensuality,
To a degenerate and degraded state.
Enter the attendant Spirit, habited like a Shepherd. That halloo I should know; what are you ? speak ;490 Come not too near, you fall on iron stakes else. Spir. What voice is that? my young lord ? speak
again. Sec. Br. O brother, 'tis my father's shepherd, sure.
First Br. Thyrsis ? whose artful strains have oft The huddling brook to hear his madrigal, [delay'd And sweeten'd
musk-rose of the dale ? How camest thou here, good swain ? Hath any ram Slipp'd from the fold, or young kid lost his dam, Or straggling wether the pent flock forsook ? How couldst thou find this dark sequester'd nook ? 500
Spir. O, my loved master's heir, and his next joy, I came not here on such a trivial toy As a stray'd ewe, or to pursue the stealth Of pilfering wolf; not all the fleecy wealth That doth enrich these downs is worth a thought To this my errand, and the care it brought. But, O my virgin lady, where is she ? How chance she is not in your company ?
First Br. To tell thee sadly, shepherd, without Or our neglect, we lost her as we came. [blame,
Spir. Ah me unhappy ! then my fears are true. 511 First Br. What fears, good Thyrsis ? Prithee briefly
Spir. I'll tell ye; 'tis not vain or fabulous [show. (Though so esteem'd by shallow ignorance) What the sage poets, taught by the heavenly muse, Storied of old, in high immortal verse, Of dire chimeras, and enchanted isles, And rifted rocks, whose entrance leads to hell; For such there be, but unbelief is blind.