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From the stony Mænalus
Bring your flocks, and live with us;
Here ye shall have greater grace,
To serve the lady of this place;
Though Syrinx your Pan's mistress were,
Yet Syrinx well might wait on her.
Such a rural queen
All Arcadia hath not seen.
A MASK, PRESENTED AT LUDLOW CASTLE, 1634, BEFORE THE
EARL OF BRIDGEWATER, THEN PRESIDENT OF WALES.
The Mask was presented in 1634, and consequently in the twentysixth year of our author's age. In the title-page of the first edition, printed in 1637, it is said that it was presented on Michaelmas night, and there was this motto:
"Eheu quid volui misero mihi! floribus austrum
In this edition, and in that of Milton's poems in 1645, there was prefixed to the Mask the following dedication :
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE LORD JOHN VISCOUNT BRACKLY, Son
AND HEIR APPARENT TO THE EARL OF BRIDGEWATER, &c.
MY LORD,—This poem, which received its first occasion of birth from yourself and others of your noble family, and much honour from your own person in the performance, now returns again to make a final dedication of itself to you. Although not openly acknowledged by the author, yet it is a legitimate offspring, so lovely, and so much desired, that the often copying of it hath tired my pen to give my several friends satisfaction, and brought me to a necessity of producing it to the public view; and now to offer it up in all rightful devotion to those fair hopes, and
rare endowments of your much promising youth, which give a full assurance, to all that know you, of a future excellence. Live, sweet lord, to be the honour of your name, and receive this as your own, from the hands of him, who hath by many favours been long obliged to your most honoured parents, and as in this representation your attendant Thyrsis, so now in all real expression
Your faithful and most
H. LAWES. [In the edition of 1645 was also prefixed Sir Henry Wotton's letter to the author upon the following poem.]
THE ATTENDANT SPIRIT, afterwards
in the habit of THYRSIS.
Comus, with his crew.
SABRINA, the Nymph.
The Chief Persons who presented were
THE LORD BRACKLY.
MR. THOMAS EGERTON, his Brother.
THE LADY ALICE EGERTON
[The first scene discovers & wild wood. The ATTENDANT SPES
descends or enters.]
BEFORE the starry threshold of Jove's court
My mansion is, where those immortal shapes
Of bright aërial spirits live insphered
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 pestered 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
Imperial rule of all the sea-girt isles,
That, like to rich and various gems,: inlay
The unadornéd 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-haired deities;
And all this tract that fronts the falling sun
A noble peer of mickle trust and power
Has in his charge, with tempered awe to guide
An old and haughty nation, proud in arms :
Where his fair offspring nursed in princely lore,
Are coming to attend their father's state,
And new-entrusted sceptre; but their way
Lies through the perplexed paths of this drear wood,
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 sovran Jove
1 The stress is upon this fact; for, though it may not be a fault in itself to
“Strive to keep up a frail and feverish being,” yet it certainly is to strive to keep it up" unmindful,” &c.—Newton.
2 Of St. Peter. Cf. Lycidas, ver. 110.
3 Cf. Richard II. act ii. sc. 1, where John of Gaunt speaks of Eng. land as
“ this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea."
I was despatched 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
Crushed the sweet poison of misused wine,
After the Tuscan mariners transformed,
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 embowered,
Excels his mother at her mighty art,
Offering to every weary traveller
His orient liquor in a crystal glass,
To quench the drouth of Phæbus; which, as tney 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,
Or ounce, or tiger, hog, or bearded goat,
All other parts remaining as they were;
And they, so perfect is their misery,
Not once perceive their foul disfigurement,
But boast themselves more comely than before ;
And all their friends and native home forget,
To roll with pleasure in a sensual sty.
Therefore when any, favoured of high Jove,
Chances to pass through this adventurous glade,
Swift as the sparkle of a glancing star
I shoot from Heaven, to give him save convoy,
As now I do; but first I must put off
These my sky robes spun out of Iris' woof,