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But O my virgin lady, where is she?
How chance she is not in your company?

El. Br. To tell thee sadly, shepherd, without blame, Or our neglect, we lost her as we came.

510 Spirit. Ay me unhappy! then my fears are true. El. Br. What fears, good Thyrsis ? Prithee briefly shew.

Spirit. I'll tell ye; 'tis not vain, or fabulous,
(Though so esteem'd by shallow ignorance,)
What the sage poets taught by th' heav'nly Muse, 515
Storied of old in high immortal verse
Of dire chimeras and enchanted iles,
And rifted rocks whose entrance leads to hell;
For such there be, but unbelief is blind.

Within the navel of this hideous wood,
Immur'd in cypress shades a sorcerer dwells,
Of Bacchus and of Circe born, great Comus,
Deep skill'd in all his mother's witcheries;
And here to every thirsty wanderer,
By sly enticement gives his baneful cup,

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With many murmurs mixt; whose pleasing poison
The visage quite transforms of him that drinks,
And the inglorious likeness of a beast
Fixes instead, unmoulding reason's mintage,
Character'd in the face; this have I learn't

530 Tending my flocks hard by i’ th' hilly crofts, That brow this bottom glade; whence night by night He and his monstrous rout are heard to howl Like stabl'd wolves, or tigers at their prey, Doing abhorred rites to Hecate In their obscured haunts of inmost bowers. Yet have they many baits, and guileful spells To inveigle and invite th' unwary sense Of them that pass unweeting by the way. This evening late, by then the chewing flocks 540 Had ta'en their supper on the savoury herb Of knot-grass dew-besprent, and were in fold; I sate me down to watch upon a bank

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With ivy canopied, and interwove
With flaunting honeysuckle ; and began,

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Wrapt in a pleasing fit of melancholy,
To meditate my rural minstrelsy
Till fancy had her fill; but ere a close,
The wonted roar was up amidst the woods,
And fill’d the air with barbarous dissonance; 550
At which I ceas't and listen'd them a while,
Till an unusual stop of sudden silence
Gave respite to the drowsy frighted steeds
That draw the litter of close-curtain's Sleep.
At last a soft and solemn-breathing sound

555 Rose like a steam of rich distilld perfumes, And stole upon the air, that even, Silence Was took ere she was ware, and wish't she might Deny her nature, and be never more Still to be so displac't. I was all ear,

560 And took in strains that might create a soul Under the ribs of Death ; but ( ere long Too well I did perceive it was the voice Of my most honour'd Lady, your dear sister. Amaz'd I stood, harrow'd with grief and fear; 565 And O poor hapless nightingale,' thought I, ‘How sweet thou sing'st, how near the deadly snare! Then down the lawns I ran with headlong haste, Through paths, and turnings oft'n trod by day, Till guided by mine ear I found the place,

570 Where that damn'd wisard hid in sly disguise (For so by certain signs I knew) had met Already, ere my best speed could prevent, The aidless innocent lady his wish't prey; Who gently ask't if he had seen such two,

575 Supposing him some neighbour villager; Longer I durst not stay, but soon I guess't Ye were the two she mean't; with that I sprung Into swift flight, till I had found you here, But further know I not.

Second Brother. O night and shades,

How are ye join'd with hell in triple knot
Against th' unarmed weakness of one virgin
Alone, and helpless! Is this the confidence
You gave me, brother?

Elder Brother. Yes, and keep it still;
Lean on it safely, not a period
Shall be unsaid for me: against the threats
Of malice or of sorcery, or that power
Which erring men call Chance, this I hold firm:
Virtue may be assaild, but never hurt,
Surpris'd by unjust force, but not enthrall’d;
Yea even that which mischief meant most harm,
Shall in the happy trial prove most glory.
But evil on itself shall back recoil,
And mix no more with goodness, when at last
Gather'd like scum, and settl'd to itself

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It shall be in eternal restless change
Self-fed, and self-consumed; if this fail,
The pillar'd firmament is rottenness,
And earth's base built on stubble. But come, let's on.
Against th' opposing will and arm of Heav'n 600
May never this just sword be lifted up;
But for that damn'd magician, let him be girt
With all the grisly legions that troop
Under the sooty flag of Acheron,
Harpies and hydras, or all the monstrous forms 605
'Twixt Africa and Ind, I'll find him out,
And force him to return his purchase back,
Or drag him by the curls, to a foul death,
Curs'd as his life.

Spirit. Alas! good ventrous youth, I love thy courage yet, and bold emprise,

610 But here thy sword can do thee little stead; Far other arms, and other weapons must Be those that quell the might of hellish charms; He with his bare wand can unthread thy joints, And crumble all thy sinews. Elder Brother.

Why prithee, shepherd,

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How durst thou then thyself approach so near

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As to make this relation ?
Spirit.

Care and utmost shifts
How to secure the lady from surprisal,
Brought to my mind a certain shepherd lad
Of small regard to see to, yet well skill'd
In every virtuous plant and healing herb
That spreads her verdant leaf to th’ morning ray;
He lov'd me well, and oft would beg me sing,
Which when I did, he on the tender grass
Would sit, and hearken even to ecstacy;
And in requital ope his leathern scrip,
And show me simples of a thousand names
Telling their strange and vigorous faculties:
Amongst the rest a small unsightly root,
But of divine effect, he culld me out;
The leaf was darkish, and had prickles on it,
But in another country, as he said,
Bore a bright golden flower, but not in this soil :
Unknown, and like esteem'd, and the dull swain
Treads on it daily with his clouted shoon;
And yet more med'cinal is it than that moly
That Hermes once to wise Ulysses gave;
He call'd it hæmony, and gave it me,
And bade me keep it as of sovran use
'Gainst all enchantments, mildew blast, or damp
Or ghastly furies' apparition;
I purs't it up, but little reck’ning made,
Till now that this extremity compellid,
But now I find it true; for by this means
I knew the foul enchanter though disguis’d,
Enter'd the very lime-twigs of his spells,
And yet came off: if you have this about you
(As I will give you when we go), you may
Boldly assault the necromancer's hall;
Where if he be, with dauntless hardihood
And brandish't blade rush on him, break his glass,
And shed the luscious liquor on the ground,

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But seize his wand; though he and his curst crew
Fierce sign of battle make, and menace high,
Or like the sons of Vulcan vomit smoke,
Yet will they soon retire, if he but shrink.

El. Br. Thyrsis, lead on apace, I'll follow thee; And some good angel bear a shield before us. The Scene changes to a stately palace, set out with all manner of deliciousness; soft music, tables spread with all dainties. COMUS appears with his rabble, and the LADY set in an enchanted chair, to whom he offers his glass, which she puts by, and goes about to rise.

Comus.
Nay, lady, sit ; if I but wave this wand,
Your nerves are all chain'd up in alablaster,

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And you a statue; or as Daphne was
Rootbound, that fled Apollo.
Lady.

Fool, do not boast; Thou canst not touch the freedom of my mind With all thy charms; although this corporal rind Thou hast immanacl'd, while Heav'n sees good. 665

Comus. Why are you vext, lady? why do you frown? Here dwell no frowns, nor anger; from these gates Sorrow flies far. See, here be all the pleasures That fancy can beget on youthful thoughts, When the fresh blood grows lively, and returns 670 Brisk as the April buds in primrose-season. And first behold this cordial julep here, That flames and dances in his crystal bounds, With spirits of balm and fragrant syrops mixt. Not that Nepenthes, which the wife of Thone In Egypt gave to Jove-born Helena, Is of such power to stir up joy as this, To life so friendly, or so cool to thirst. Why should you be so cruel to yourself, And to those dainty limbs which Nature lent For gentle usage, and soft delicacy ? But you invert the cov'nants of her trust,

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