Page images

My sliding chariot stays,
Thick set with agate, and the azure sheen
Of turkis blue, and emerald

That in the channel strays;
Whilst from off the waters fleet
Thus I set my printless feet
O'er the cowslip's velvet head,

That bends not as I tread;
Gentle swain, at thy request

I am here.


Goddess dear,
We implore thy powerful hand
To undo the charmed band
Of true virgin here distressed,
Through the force, and through the wile,
Of unblest enchanter vile.


[ocr errors]

Shepherd, 'tis my office best
To help ensnaréd chastity :
Brightest lady, look on me;
Thus I sprinkle on thy breast
Drops, that from


I have kept, of precious cure;
Thrice upon thy finger's tip,
Thrice upon thy rubied lip;
Next this marble venomed seat,
Smeared with gums of glutinous heat,
I touch with chaste palms moist and cold:
Now the spell hath lost his hold;
And I must haste, ere morning hour,
To wait in Amphitrite's bower.

(Sabrina descends, and the LADY rises out of her seat.]


Virgin, daughter of Locrine,
Sprung of old Anchises' line,
May thy brimméd? waves for this
Their full tribute never miss

1 For Locrine was the son of Brutus, who was the son of Silvius, he of Ascanius, and Ascanius of Æneas, the son of Anchises.

2 i. e. swelling, rising to the brim.


From a thousand petty rills,
That tumble down the snowy

Summer drouth, or singéd air,
Never scorch thy tresses fair,
Nor wet October's torrent flood
Thy molten crystal fill with mud:
May thy billows roll ashore
The beryl, and the golden ore;
May thy lofty head be crowned
With many a tower and terrace round,
And here and there thy banks upon?
With groves of myrrh and cinnamon.

Come, lady, while Heaven lends us grace,
Let us fly this cursed place,
Lest the sorcerer us entice
With some other new device.
Not a waste or needless sound
Till we come to holier ground,
I shall be your faithful guide
Through this gloomy covert wide;
And not many furlongs thence
Is your father's residence,
Where this night are met in state
Many a friend to gratulate
His wished presence, and, beside,
All the swains that near abide,
With jigs and rural dance resort ;
We shall catch them at their sport;
And our sudden coming there
Will double all their mirth and cheer.
Come, let us haste, the stars grow high,

But night sits monarch yet in the mid sky
(The Scene changes, presenting Ludlow town and the Presi.
DENT's castle; then come in country dancers; after them the
ATTENDANT SPIRIT, with the two BROTHERS and the Lady.]


Back, shepherds, back! enough your play,

Till next sunshine holiday : 1 Banks is the nominative case, as head was in the last line but one. The sense and syntax of the whole is, may thy head be crowned round about with towers, &c., and here and there [may] thy banks [be crowned) upon with groves, &c. A lotéPoivro coi ai óxbai. The phrase is Greek.--Callon.

Here be, without duck or nod,
Other trippings to be trod
Of lighter toes, and such court guise
As Mercury did first devise,
With the mincing Dryades,
On the lawns, and on the leas."

[This second Song presents them to their Father and Mother.]

Noble lord, and lady bright,
I have brought ye new delight;
Here behoid, so goodly grown,
Three fair branches of your own;
Heaven hath timely tried their youth,
Their faith, their patience, and their truth,

And sent them here through hard assays
With a crown of deathless praise,

To triumph in victorious dance O'er sensual folly and intemperance.

[The dances ended, the SPIRIT epiloguises.]



To the ocean now I fly,
And those happy climes that lie
Where day never shuts his eye,
Up in the broad fields of the sky:
There I suck the liquid air
All amidst the gardens fair
Of Hesperus, and his daughters three,
That sing about the golden tree:
Along the crispéd shades and bowers
Revels the spruce and jocund Spring,
The Graces, and the rosy-bosomed Hours,
Thither all their bounties bring:
There eternal Summer dwells,
And west winds, with musky wing,
About the cedarn alleys fling
Nard and cassia's balmy smells.
Iris there with humid bow
Waters the odorous banks, that blow

1 Pastures, corn-fields.
? A paraphrase of Ariel's song in the “ Tempest:"-

“Where the bee sucks, there lurk I."

[ocr errors]


Flowers of more mingled hue

Than her purfled scarf can shew,
And drenches with Elysian dew
List, mortals, if your ears be true)
Beds of hyacinth and roses,
'Where young Adonis oft reposes,
Waxing well of his deep wound
In slumber soft, and on the ground
Sadly sits the Assyrian queen;
But far above, in spangled sheen,
Celestial Cupid, her famed son, advanced,
Holds his dear Psyche sweet entranced,
After her wandering labours long,
Till free consent the gods among
Make her his eternal bride,
And from her fair unspotted side
Two blissful twins are to be born,
Youth and Joy; so Jove hath sworn.

But now my task is othly done;
I can fly, or I can run
Quickly to the green earth's end,
Where the bowed welkin slow doth bend,
And from thence can soar as soon
To the corners of the moon.

Mortals, that would follow me,
Love Virtue; she alone is free:
She can teach ye how to climb
Higher than the sphery chime;
Or, if Virtue feeble were,

Heaven itself would stoop to her.S | Flourished, embroided with the needle.

2 Venus, so called, because she was first worshipped by the Assy. rians.

3 “ Comus," observes Hallam,"was sufficient to convince any one of taste and feeling, that a great poet had arisen in England, and one partly formed in a different school from his contemporaries. Many of them had produced highly beautiful and imaginative passages; but none had evinced so classical a judgment, none had aspired to so regular a perfection. Jonson had learned much from the ancients, but there was a grace in their best models which he did not quite attain. Neither his 'Sad Shepherd,' nor the 'Faithful Shepherdess' of Fletcher, have the elegance or dignity of 'Comus.' A noble virgin and her young brothers, by whom this masque was originally represented, required an elevation, a purity, a sort of severity of sentiment which no one in that age could have given but Milton. He avoided, and nothing loth, the more festive notes which dramatic poetry was

[ocr errors]



[ocr errors]

[In this monody the author bewails a learned friend, Mr. Edward King,

who was unfortunately drowned in his passage from Chester on the Irish seas, 1637, and by occasion foretels the ruin of our corrupted clergy, then in their height.]

YEt once more, O ye laurels! and once more
Ye myrtles brown, with ivy never sere,
I come to pluck your berries harsh and crude,
And with forced fingers rude
Shatter your leaves before the mellowing year.
Bitter constraint, and sad occasion dear,
Compels me to disturb your season due ;
For Lycidas is dead, dead ere his prime,
Young Lycidas, and hath not left his peer:
Who would not sing for Lycidas? He knew
Himself to sing, and build the lofty rhyme.
He must not float upon his watery bier
Unwept, and welter to the parching wind,
Without the meed of some melodious tear.

wont to mingle with its serious strain. But for this he was compen. sated by the brightest hues of fancy, and the sweetest melody of song. In 'Comus' we find nothing prosaic or feeble, no false taste in the incidents, and not much in the language, nothing over which we should desire to pass on a second perusal. The want of what we may call personality, none of the characters having names, except Comus himself, who is a very indefinite being, and the absence of all positive attributes of time and place, enhance the ideality of the fiction by a certain indistinctness not unpleasing to the imagination.”

It has been said, I think very fairly, that Lycidas is a good test of real feeling for what is peculiarly called poetry. Many, or perhaps we might say most readers, do not taste its excellence; nor does it follow that they may not greatly admire Pope and Dryden, or even Virgil and Homer. It is, however, somewhat remarkable, that John. son, who has committed his critical reputation by the most contempo tuous depreciation of this poem, had, in an earlier part of his life, selected the tenth Eclogue of Virgil for peculiar praise; the tenth Eclogue, which, beautiful as it is, belongs to the same class of pastoral

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »