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And sweeten’d every muskrose of the dale.
How cam'st thou here, good swain? hath any ram
Slipp'd from the fold, or young kid lost his dam,
Or straggling wether the pent flock forsook?

^ 494. Thyrsis? whose artful strains &c.] This no doubt was intended as a compliment to Mr. Lawes upon his musical compositions; and a very fine one it is, and more genteel than that which we took notice of before, as that was put into his own mouth, but this is spoken by another. 494. The spirit appears habited like a shepherd; and the poet has here caught a fit of rhyming from Fletcher's pastoral comedy.

Milton's eagerness to praise his.

friend Lawes, makes him here forget the circumstances of the fable: he is more intent on the musician than the shepherd, who comes at a critical season, and whose assistance in the present difficulty should have hastily been asked. But time is lost in a needless encomium, and in idle enquiries how the shepherd could possibly find out this solitary part of the forest. The youth, however, seems to be ashamed or unwilling to tell the unlucky accident that had befallen his sister. Perhaps the real boyism of the Brother, which yet should have been forgotten by the poet, is to be taken into the account. T. Warion. 495. —To hear his madrigal.]

The madrigal was a species of musical composition now actually in practice, and in high vogue. Lawes, here intended, had composed madrigals. So had Milton's father, as we shall see hereafter. The word is not here thrown out at random. T. Warton. 496. And sweeten’d every &c.] In poetical and picturesque circumstances, in wildness of fancy and imagery, and in weight of sentiment and moral, how greatly does Comus excel the Aminta of Tasso, and the Pastor Fido of Guarini, which Milton, from his love of Italian poetry, must have frequently read! Comus, like these two, is a pastoral Drama, and I have often wondered it is not mentioned as such. Dr. J. Warton. 496. —of the dale.] In the Manuscript it was at first

—of the valley.

497. How cam'st thou here, good swain 2 &c.] In the Manuscript it is good shepherd: but that agrees not so well with the measure of the verse. And in the next verse the Manuscript had at first Leap'd o'er the pen, which was corrected into Slipt from his fold, as it is in the Manuscript, or the fold, as in all the editions.

How could'st thou find this dark sequester'd nook? 500
SPIRIT.
O my lov’d master's heir, and his next joy,
I came not here on such a trivial toy
As a stray’d ewe, or to pursue the stealth
Of pilfering wolf; not all the fleecy wealth
That doth enrich these downs, is worth a thought 505
To this my errand, and the care it brought.
But, O my virgin Lady, where is she?
How chance she is not in your company?
ELDER BROTHER.
To tell thee sadly, Shepherd, without blame,

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SPIRIT.
Aye me unhappy! then my fears are true.
ELDER BROTHER.
What fears, good Thyrsis? Prythee 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

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Storied of old in high immortal verse,
Of dire chimeras and inchanted isles,
And rifted rocks whose entrance leads to hell;
For such there be, but unbelief is blind.

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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

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With many murmurs mix’d, whose pleasing poison
The visage quite transforms of him that drinks,
And the inglorious likeness of a beast
Fixes instead, unmoulding reason’s mintage

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That brow this bottom glade, whence night by night
He and his monstrous rout are heard to howl
Like stabled wolves, or tigers at their prey,
Doing abhorred rites to Hecate 535
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 sat me down to watch upon a bank
With ivy canopied, and interwove

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With flaunting honey-suckle, and began, 545.
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'd, and listen’d them a while,
Till an unusual stop of sudden silence
Gave respite to the drowsy flighted steeds,

Canopied, in the same applica-
tion, occurs also in Drayton,
Phineas Fletcher, Carew, and
Browne. See the note on inter-
nove, P. L. i. 621. T. Warton.
545. With flaunting honey-
suckle,) It was at first spreading
or blowing.
545. Milton therefore changed

the epithets, which were simply

descriptive, for one which ascribed to the plant an attribute of an animated, or even of a sentient, being. See note on P. R. i. 500. Mr. Warton refers to Lycidas 146, nwell-attir'd woodbine,” and 40, “the gadding vine." And the same remark applies to these epithets, and to several others near them, “ cowslips wan,” “joyous leaves,” &c. %

547. To meditate my rural minstrelsy.) We have the expression “ rural minstrelsy” in Browne's Pastorals, b. i. s. i. p. 2. and in the Eclogues of Brooke and Davies, Lond. 1614; but the whole context is Virgil's “Sylvestrem tenui musam meditaris arena,” Bucol. i. 2. As in Lycidas, 66.

—meditate the thankless muse.

Close, in the next line, is a mu

sical close on his pipe. See the
note on the Ode on the Nativity,
100, T. Warton.
553. –thedrowsy flighted steeds,
That dran, the litter of close
curtain'd sleep;]
So I read drowsy-flighted ac-
cording to Milton's Manuscript;
and this genuinereading Dr. Dal-
ton has also preserved in Comus.
Dron’sy-frighted is nonsense, and
manifestly an error of the press
in all the editions. There can
be no doubt that in this passage
Milton had his eye upon the fol-
lowing description of night in
Shakespeare, 2 Henry VI. act
iv. s. 1.
And now loud howling wolves arouse
the jades,

That drag the tragic melancholy night,
Who with their drowsy, slow, and

flagging wings Clip dead men's graves The idea and the expression of drowsy-flighted in the one are plainly copied from their dron’sy, slow, and flagging wings in the other: and Fletcher in the Faithful Shepherdess has much the same image, activ. Night, do not steal away: I woo thee yet To hold a hard hand o'er the rusty bit That guides thy lazy team.

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