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Comus enters with a charming rod in one hand, his glass in the other; ivith 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.
Comus. The star that bids the shepherd fold,
We, that are of purer fire,
Imitate the starry quire,
Who, in their nightly watchful spheres,
Lead in swift round the months and years.
The sounds and seas, with all their finny drove,
Now to the moon in wavering morris move;
And on the tawny sands and shelves
Trip the pert fairies and the dapper elves.
By dimpled brook and fountain brim,
The wood-nymphs, deck'd with daisies trim,
Their merry wakes and pastimes keep;
What hath night to do with sleep?
Night hath better sweets to prove,
Venus now wakes, and wakens Love,
Come, let us our rites begin,
'Tis only day-light that makes sin,
Which these dun shades will ne'er report.
Hail, goddess of nocturnal sport, '.
Dark-veil'd Cotytto! t'whom the secret flame
Of midnight torches burns; mysterious dame,
That ne'er art call'd, but when the dragon womb
Of Stygian darkness spets her thickest gloom,
And makes one blot of all the air;
Stay thy cloudy ebon chair,
Wherein thou rid'st with Hecat', and befriend
Us thy vow'd priests, till utmost end
Of all thy dues be done, and none left out,
Ere the blabbing eastern scout, ■
The nice morn, on th' Indian steep . . .
From her cabin'd loop-hole peep, .. .
And to the tell-tale sun descry
Our conceal'd solemnity.
Come, knit hands, and. beat the ground
In a light fantastic round.
Break off, break off, I feel the different pace
And well-plac'd words of glozing courtesy
The Lady enters.
Lady. This way the noise was, if mine ear be true, My best guide now; methought it was the sound Of riot and ill-manag'd merriment, Such as the jocund flute, or gamesome pipe Stirs up among the loose unletter'd hinds, When for 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,
Step'd, 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 grey-hooded Ev'n,
Like a sad votarist in palmer's weed,
Rose from the hindmost wheels of Phoebus' wain.
But where they are, and why they came not back,
Is now the labour of my thoughts. 'Tis likeliest
They had engag'd their wand'ring steps too far;
And envious Darkness, ere they could return,
Had stole them from me: else, O thievish Night,
Why shouldst thou, but for some felonious end,
In thy dark lantern thus close up the stars
That Nature hung in heav'n, and fill'd their lamps
With everlasting oil, to give due light
To the misled and lonely traveller?
This is the place, as well as I may guess,
Whence even now the tumult of loud mirth
Was rife, and perfect in my list'ning ear,
Yet nought but single darkness do I find.
What might this be? A thousand fantasies
Begin to throng into my memory,
Of calling shapes, and beck'ning shadows dire,
And airy tongues, that syllable men's names
On sands, and.ihores, and desert wildernesses.