ページの画像
PDF
ePub

Whom certain these rough shades did never breed,
Unless the goddess that in rural shrine .
Dwell'st here with Pan, or Silvan, by blest song
Forbidding every bleak unkindly fog .
To touch the prosp'rous growth of this tall wood.

Lady. Nay, gentle shepherd, ill is that praise lost
That is address'd to unattending ears;
Not any boast of skill, but extreme shift
How to regain my sever'd company,
Compelld me to awake the courteous Echo
To give me answer from her mossy couch.

Comus. What chance, good lady, hath bereft you thus?
Lady. Dim darkness and this leafy labyrinth.
Comus. Could that divide you from near-ushering

guides?

Lady. They left me weary on a grassy turf.
Comus. By falsehood, or discourtesy, or why?
Lady. To seek i' th' valley some cool friendly spring.
Comus. And left your fair side all unguarded, Lady?
Lady. They were but twain, and purposed quick re-

turn. Comus. Perhaps forestalling night prevented them. Lady. How easy my misfortune is to hit! · Comus. Imports their loss, beside the present need? Lady. No less than if I should my brothers lose. Comus. Were they of manly prime, or youthful bloom? Lady. As smooth as Hebe's their unrazor'd lips.

Comus. Two such I saw what time the labour'd ox In his loose traces from the furrow came, And the swinkt hedger 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 faëry vision Of some gay creatures of the element, That in the colours of the rainbow live, And play i' th' plighted clouds. I was awe-struck, And as I passd, I worship’d; if those you seek,

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

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

Comus. Due west it rises from this shrubby point.

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-practis'd feet.

Comus. 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-attendance be yet lodg'd,
Or shroud within these limits, I shall know
Ere morrow wake, or the low-roosted lark
From her thatch'd pallet rouse ; if otherwise
I can conduct you, Lady, to a low
But loyal cottage, where you may be safe
Till further quest.

Lady. Shepherd, I take thy word,
And trust thy honest offer'd 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 nam’d,
And yet is most pretended : in a place
Less warranted than this, or less secure,
I can not be, that I should fear to change it.
Eye me, blest Providence, and square my trial
To my proportion'd strength. Shepherd, lead on.”

Milton has been accused as being deficient in respect to the female character. He speaks of Eve, in regard to Adam, as “not equal,” and seems to consider her as not altogether worthy to discourse with the angel who came from Heaven to Paradise. But nothing can surpass the delicacy and elevation of sentiment with which he represents the Lady in Comus, nor does he seem to consider her as a solitary instance of the excellence and loveliness peculiar to her sex.

The celestial Spirit who attends the brothers and their sister, distinguishes between those low-minded beings, all whose thoughts are limited to this world, and that superior order,

" 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”— says he. And the Lady's brothers, when they have left her, are relieved of their natural apprehensions for her safety, by the conviction of her exalted purity. One of them says“ My sister is not so defenceless left

As you imagine ; she has a hidden strength
Which you remember not.

* * * * * * *
So dear to Heav'n is saintly chastity,
That when a soul is found sincerely so,
A thousand liveried Angels lacky 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 heav'nly habitants
Begin to cast a beam on th' outward shape,
The unpolluted temple of the mind,
And turn it by degrees to the soul's essence,
Till all be made immortal.”

Circe—the mother of Comus, was an enchantress who inhabited an island of the Mediterranean, and who, like her son, transformed her associates to brutes.

The Syrens three-were females who inhabited a small island near Sicily. They charmed mariners by their delightful voices, and made them delay their voyage.

Scylla wept.-Scylla was a female who was transform. ed to a monster by the arts of Circe, and was fixed to the

[ocr errors]

strait of Messina. A whirlpool on the coast opposite to Scylla was Charybdis.

Naiades. Young and beautiful virgins who presided over rivers and fountains.

Echo, sweetest nymph.-Echo is the return of sound but the mythology supposes that Echo is the voice of a female, who, as a punishment for loquacity, is invisible, and only permitted to repeat the words of others. Narcissus was a beautiful youth whom Echo loved.

Meander—was a river of Asia Minor, remarkable for its winding course.

Pan and Sylvan—were wood gods.

Hebe a youthful goddess, very beautiful. Canova's statue of Hebe is among the most admired works of that artist.

DRYDEN. This eminent poet was born in 1631, and died in 1700. His poetry is not of a character to interest the young, but the passages inserted among these specimens serve to illustrate the manners of a past age, and therefore properly belong to a collection of poetry which is intended not merely to contain verses, but also to exhibit facts that are connected with the poetry of the Engligh language.

TOURNAMENTS. Chivalry went out of use because the laws in Europe were improved by the increasing knowledge and good sense of the people. When the order of government and the authority of the laws were generally understood and acknowledged in England, the rights of all people were no longer defended by the strife of arms, but were settled by courts of justice, and all ranks of the nation learned to respect each other. The English barons first disputed the arbitrary power of the kings, and the people learned from their example to consider themselves men; and all classes in society, because they knew better, left off preying upon their weaker neighbours. The English nobility, when fighting began to be less needed as a defence, began to take care of their estates, and at length they gave up the military service of the vassals, who continued peaceable labourers upon the grounds of the landholders. The laws and the public opinion no longer permitted men to take up arms except in the service of the state, when the Parliament and the king should order them to do so.

The evils which had disturbed society, for the want of knowledge, and the want of laws properly administered, ceased to exist; but the amusements and public spectacles which had been connected with Chivalry, though Chivalry no longer continued as the profession of gentlemen, still interested people. The most memorable of the exhibitions connected with Chivalry, was the Tournament, or Passage of Arms. This was a trial of strength and skill at the various exercises which the

« 前へ次へ »