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LADY.

They left me weary on a grassy turf.

COMUS.

By falsehood, or discourtesy, or why?
To seek i' the valley some cool, friendly spring.

LADY.

COMUS.

LADY.

And left your fair side all unguarded, lady?
They were but twain, and purposed quick return.
Perhaps forestalling night prevented them.

COMUS.

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COMUS.

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LADY.

No less than if I should my brothers lose.
Were they of manly prime, or youthful bloom ?
As smooth as Hebe's their unrazored lips.

COMUS.
Two such I saw, what time the laboured ox
In his loose traces from the furrow came,
And the swinkthedger 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 fairy 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 passed, I worshipped; if those you seek,

Ι
It were a journey like the path to Heaven,
To help you find them.

Gentle villager,
What readiest way would bring me to that place?

LADY.

COMUS.

Due west it rises from this shrubby point.

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LADY.

COMUS.

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.

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 thatched pallet rouse: if otherwise,
I can conduct you, lady, to a low
But loyal cottage, where you may be safe
Till further quest.

Shepherd, I take thy word,
And trust thy honest-offered courtesy,
Which oft is sooner found in lowly sheds
With smoky rafters, than in tap'stry 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 proportioned strength! Shepherd, lead on.

[The two BROTHERS.]

ELDER BROTHER. Unmuffle,

ye

faint stars; and thou fair moon, That wont'st to love the traveller's benizon, 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 dammed 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 levelled rule of streaming light, And thou shalt be our star of Arcady, Or Tyrian Cynosure. 1 Woody.

2 Art accustomed.

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ELDER BROTHER.

SECOND BROTHER.

Or, if our eyes Be barred that happiness, might we but hear The folded flocks penned 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 oh, that hapless virgin, our lost sister! Where may she wander now? whither betake her From the chill dew, amongst rude burs and thistles? Perhaps some cold bank is her bolster now; Or 'gainst the rugged bark of some broad elm Leans her unpillowed 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?

Peace, brother! be not over-exquisite To cast the fashion of uncertain evils; For grant they be so, while they rest unknown, What need a man forestall 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) 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 too ruffled, and sometimes impaired. 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 midday sun;
Himself is his own dungeon.

SECOND BROTHER.

'Tis most true,
That musing meditation most affects
The pensive secresy 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 gray hairs any violence ?
But beauty, like the fair Hesperian tree
Laden with blooming gold, hath 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 unsunned heaps
Of misers' 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.

ELDER BROTHER.

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
Which you remember not.

SECOND BROTHER.

What hidden strength, Unless the strength of Heaven, if you mean that?

ELDER BROTHER. I mean that too; but yet a hidden strength, Which, if Heaven gave it, may be termed her own; 'Tis chastity, my brother, chastity:

She that has that is clad in complete steel,
And, like a quivered nymph with arrows keen,
May trace huge forests, and unharboured heaths,
Infamous hills, and sandy perilous wilds;
Where, through the sacred rays of chastity,
No savage fierce, bandit, or mountaineer,
Will dare to soil her virgin purity:
Yea there, where very desolation dwells,
By grots and caverns shagged with horrid shades,
She may pass on with unblenched 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.
Do

ye 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
Feared her stern frown, and she was queen o' the woods.
What was that snaky-headed Gorgon shield
That wise Minerva wore, unconquered virgin,
Wherewith she freezed her foes to congealed stone,
But rigid looks of chaste austerity,
And noble grace, that dashed 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 lackey 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;

1 Spenser, F. Q. iii. 8, 29:

“See how the Heavens, of voluntary grace,

And sovereign favour towards chastity,
Do succour send to her distressed case:
So much high God doth innocence en brace."-Thyer.

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