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awhile to point out the distinguishing genius of Athens. • That city had then for two centuries been under the dominion of Rome, but her language, her monuments, her traditions, and many of her institutions still existed; and thither the best educated of the Romans resorted to complete their course of study. Milton's verses represent Athens thus:
Where on the Ægean shore a city stands
Built nobly, pure the air, and light the soil,
Athens the eye of Greece, mother of arts
And eloquence, native to famous wits
Or hospitable, in her sweet recess,
City or suburban, studious walks and shades ;
See there the olive grove of Academe,
Plato's retirement, where thé Attic bird
Trills her thick-warbled notes the summer long.
There flowery hill Hymettus with the sound
Of bees’ industrious murmur oft invites
To studious musing ; there Ilissus rolls
His whisp’ring stream; within the wall then view
The schools of ancient sages ; his who bred
Great Alexander to subdue the world,
Lyceum there, and painted Stoa next :
There shalt thou hear and learn the secret power
Of harmony in tones and numbers hit
By voice or hand, and various-measur'd verse,
Æolian charms and Dorian lyric odes,
And his who gave them breath, but higher sung,
Blind Melesigenes thence Homer call’d,
Whose poem Phæbus challeng'd for his own.
Thence what the lofty grave tragedians taught
In chorus or iambick, teachers best
· Of moral prudence, with delight receiv'd
In brief sententious precepts, while they treat
Of fate and chance, and change in human life;
High actions and high passions best describing.
Thence to the famous orators repair,
Those ancient, whose resistless eloquence
Wielded at will that fierce democratie,
Shook th' arsenal and fulmin'd over Greece,
To Macedon and Artaxerxes' throne.
To sage philosophy next lend thine ear,
From heav'n descended to the low-rooft house
Of Socrates; see there his tenement,
Whom well inspir'd the oracle pronounc'd
Wisest of men ; from whose mouth issued forth
Mellifluous streams that water'd all the schools
Of academics, old and new, with those
Sirnam'd Peripatetics, and the sect
Epicurean, and the Stoic severe.
The poets, orators, and philosophical schools of Athens are only mentioned here. Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides were the grave tragedians-teachers best of moral prudence. The challenge of Phæbus means that Homer's poetry was declared by some to be that of Apollo himself. JEolian charms and Dorian lyric odes, alludes to different measures and dialects of Greek poetry. He, who bred great Alexander, was the philosopher Aristotle. The chief of the thundering orators, was Demosthenes, who exhorted his countrymen, by the most powerful eloquence, to resist Philip of Macedon; and Socrates was so pure, humble, and powerful a moralist, that he has sometimes been compared with the founder of our religion.
. *COMUS. Among the ancients, Comus was the god of low pleasures-of those noisy and foolish frolics which are suited to night rather than to day, and which some ignorant and intemperate people delight in. Milton's Masque, of Comus is a beautiful poem: it is founded upon the supposed power which Comus possesses over the minds of the pure and wise, and over the weak and sensual. Milton presumes that when men devote themselves to the rites of Comus, that is to excessive drinking, and, as the
Gospel says, to “riotous living,” they become in reality beasts, though they know not that they are thus degraded, but, that if the mind is firm in good principles, it will resist every attraction of vice, and retain its innocence under the strongest temptations. Comus was written in the dramatic form, to be represented by the Earl of Bridgewater's family at Ludlow Castle.
The fable of Comus is this—A beautiful lady, accompanied by her two brothers, is journeying through the perplexed paths of a drear wood. A spirit from heaven, charged with the care of the young travellers, secretly watches over them, but the brothers for a while are separated from their sister. The lady, in the absence of her brothers, is found by Comus, but she resists all his attractions; and though she is endangered, finally escapes from his snares.
“Comus enters with a charming-rod in one hand, his glass in the other; with him a rout of monsters, headed like sundry sorts of wild beasts, but otherwise like men and women, their apparel glistering; they come in making a riotous and unruly noise, with torches in their hands."
The lady hears this noise, but does not see the revellers. She is introduced listening and in doubt, but encouraging herself in her own innocence, and in the gracious protection of the “ Supreme Good.”
The Lady enters.'
“ This way the noise was, if mine ear be true,
My best guide now; methought it was the sound
Of riot and ill-managed merriment,
Such as the jocund flute, or gamesome pipe
Stirs up among the loose unletter'd hinds,
When from their teeming flocks, and granges full,
In wanton dance they praise the bounteous Pan,
And thank the gods amiss. I should be loath
To meet the rudeness, and swill'd insolence
Of such late wassailers ; yet O where else
Shall I inform my unacquainted feet
In the blind mazes of this tangled wood ?
My brothers, when they saw me wearied out
With this long way, resolving here to lodge
Under the spreading favour of these pines,
Stept, as they said, to the next thicket side
To bring me berries, or such cooling fruit
As the kind hospitable woods provide.
They left me then, when the gray-hooded Even,
Like a sad votarist in Palmer's weed,
Rose from the hindmost wheels of Phæbus' wain,
But where they are, and why they came not back,
Is now the labour of my thoughts : * * *
* * * * * A thousand fantasies
Begin to throng into my memory,
Of calling shapes, and beck’ning shadows dire,
And aëry tongues, that syllable mens' names,
On sands, and shores, and desert wildernesses.
These thoughts may startle well, but not astound
The virtuous mind, that ever walks attended
By a strong siding champion, conscience.-
O welcome pure-ey'd Faith, white-handed Hope,
Thou hovering angel girt with golden wings,
And thou unblemish'd form of chastity;
I see ye visibly, and now believe
That he, the Supreme Good, t whom all things ill
Are but as slavish officers of vengeance,
Would send a glist'ring guardian if need were
To keep my life and honour unassail'd.
Was I deceiv'd, or did a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night?
I did not err, there does a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night,
And casts a gleam over this tusted grove.
I cannot hallow to my brothers, but
Such noise as I can make to be heard farthest
I'll venture, for my new enliv'ned spirits
Prompt me; and they perhaps are not far off.
Sweet Echo, sweetest nymph, that liv’st unseen
Within thy aëry shell, , By slow Meander's margent green, And in the violet-embroider'd vale,
.: Where the love-lorn nightingale
· Nightly to thee her sad song mourneth well;
Canst thou not tell me of a gentle pair
That like thy Narcissus are ?
O if thou have
Hid them in some flow'ry cave,
Tell me but where,
Sweet queen of parly, daughter of the sphere,
So may'st thou be translated to the skies,
And give resounding grace to all heav'n's harmonies.
Comus appears to the lady in the disguise of a shepherd.
Com. Can any mortal mixture of earth's mould
Breathe such divine, enchanting ravishment?
Sure something holy lodges in that breast,
And with these raptures moves the vocal air
To testify his hidden residence:
How sweetly did they float upon the wings
Of silence, through the empty vaulted night,
At every fall smoothing the raven down
Of darkness till it smild! I have oft heard
My mother Circe with the Sirens three,
Amidst the flowery kirtled Naiades
Culling their potent herbs, and baleful drugs."
Who as they sung, would take the prison'd soul,
And lap it in Elysium; Scylla wept,
And chid her barking waves into attention,
And fell Charybdis murmur'd soft applause;
Yet they in pleasing slumber lull’d the sense,
And in sweet madness robb’d it of itself;
But such a sacred, and homefelt delight,
Such sober certainty of waking bliss
I never heard till now. I'll speak to her,
And she shall be my queen. Hail foreign wonder,