Comus (A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle, 1634) is a masque in honour of chastity, written by John Milton and first presented on Michaelmas (29 September), 1634, before John Egerton, Earl of Bridgewater at Ludlow Castle in celebration of the Earl's new post as President of Wales. Known colloquially as Comus, the mask's actual full title is A Mask presented at Ludlow Castle 1634: on Michelmas night, before the right honorable John, Earl of Bridgewater, Viscount Brackley, Lord President of Wales, and one of His Majesty's most honorable privy council. Comus was printed anonymously in 1637, in a quarto issued by bookseller Humphrey Robinson; Milton included the work in his Poems of 1645 and 1673.
- Before the starry threshold of Jove's Court
My mansion is.
- Line 1.
- Above the smoke and stir of this dim spot
Which men call earth.
- Line 5.
- Yet some there be 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; and but for such,
I would not soil these pure ambrosial weeds
With the rank vapours of this sin-worn mould.
- Line 12.
- The nodding horror of whose shady brows
Threats the forlorn and wandering passenger.
- Line 38.
- I will tell you now
What never yet was heard in tale or song,
From old or modern bard, in hall or bower.
- Line 43.
- Bacchus, that first from out the purple grape
Crushed the sweet poison of misused wine.
- Line 46.
- These my sky-robes spun out of Iris' woof.
- Line 83.
- The star that bids the shepherd fold.
- Line 93.
- And the gilded car of day,
His glowing axle doth allay
In the steep Atlantic stream.
- Line 95.
- Midnight shout and revelry,
Tipsy dance and jollity.
- Line 103.
- What hath night to do with sleep?
- Line 122.
- Ere the blabbing eastern scout,
The nice morn, on th' Indian steep
From her cabin'd loop-hole peep.
- Line 138.
- When the gray-hooded Even,
Like a sad votarist in palmer's weed,
Rose from the hindmost wheels of Phœbus' wain.
- Line 188.
- 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 shores and desert wildernesses.
- Line 205.
- O welcome, pure-ey'd Faith, white-handed Hope,
Thou hovering angel, girt with golden wings!
- Line 213.
- Was I deceived or did a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night?
- Line 221.
- Can any mortal mixture of earth's mould
Breathe such divine enchanting ravishment?
- Line 244.
- How sweetly did they float upon the wings
Of silence, through the empty-vaulted night,
At every fall smoothing the raven down
Of darkness till it smiled!
- Line 249.
- Who, as they sung, would take the prison'd soul
And lap it in Elysium.
- Line 256.
- Such sober certainty of waking bliss.
- Line 263.
- I took it for a faery vision
Of some gay creatures of the element,
That in the colours of the rainbow live,
And play i' th' plighted clouds.
- Line 298.
- It were a journey like the path to heaven,
To help you find them.
- Line 303.
- With thy long levell'd rule of streaming light.
- Line 340.
- Virtue could see to do what Virtue would
By her own radiant light, through sun and moon
Were in the flat sea sunk. And Wisdom's self
Oft seeks to sweet retired solitude,
Where, with her best nurse Contemplation,
She plumes her feathers, and lets grow her wings.,
That in the various bustle of resort
Were all-to ruffled, and sometimes impair'd.
He that has light within his own clear breast
May sit i' th' centre and enjoy bright day;
But he that hides a dark soul and foul thoughts
Benighted walks under the midday sun.
- Line 373.
- The unsunn'd heaps
Of miser's treasure.
- Line 398.
- Tis Chastity, my brother, Chastity:
She that has that, is clad in complete steel.
- Line 420.
- Some say no evil thing that walks by night,
In fog or fire, by lake or moorish fen,
Blue meagre hag, or stubborn unlaid ghost
That breaks his magic chains at curfew time,
No goblin, or swart fairy of the mine,
Hath hurtful power o'er true virginity.
- Line 432.
- So dear to heav'n is saintly chastity,
That when a soul is found sincerely so,
A thousand liveried angels lackey 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.
- Line 453.
- How charming is divine philosophy!
Not harsh and crabbèd, as dull fools suppose,
But musical as is Apollo's lute,
And a perpetual feast of nectared sweets
Where no crude surfeit reigns.
- Line 476. Compare: "As bright Apollo's lute", William Shakespeare, Love's Labour's Lost, Act iv, Scene 3.
- And sweeten'd every musk-rose of the dale.
- Line 496.
- Filled the air with barbarous dissonance.
- Line 550.
- I was all ear,
And took in strains that might create a soul
Under the ribs of Death.
- Line 560.
- That power
Which erring men call Chance.
- Line 587.
- If this fail,
The pillar'd firmament is rottenness,
And earth's base built on stubble.
- Line 597.
- The leaf was darkish, and had prickles on it,
But in another country, as he said,
Bore a bright golden flow'r, but not in this soil;
Unknown, and like esteem'd, and the dull swain
Treads on it daily with his clouted shoon.
- Line 631.
- Enter'd the very lime-twigs of his spells,
And yet came off.
- Line 646.
- Thou canst not touch the freedom of my mind.
- Line 663.
- This cordial julep here,
That flames and dances in his crystal bounds.
- Line 672.
- Budge doctors of the Stoic fur.
- Line 707.
- And live like Nature's bastards, not her sons.
- Line 727.
- Beauty is Nature's coin, must not be hoarded,
But must be current, and the good thereof
Consists in mutual and partaken bliss.
- Line 739.
- Beauty is Nature's brag, and must be shown
In courts, at feasts, and high solemnities,
Where most may wonder at the workmanship;
It is for homely features to keep home —
They had their name thence; coarse complexions
And cheeks of sorry grain will serve to ply
The sampler, and to tease the huswife's wool.
What need a vermeil-tinctured lip for that,
Love-darting eyes, or tresses like the morn?
- Line 745.
- Swinish gluttony
Ne'er looks to heav'n amidst his gorgeous feast,
But with besotted base ingratitude
Crams, and blasphemes his feeder.
- Line 776.
- Enjoy your dear wit, and gay rhetoric,
That hath so well been taught her dazzling fence.
- Line 790.
- His rod revers'd,
And backward mutters of dissevering power.
- Line 816.
- Sabrina fair,
Listen where thou art sitting
Under the glassy, cool, translucent wave,
In twisted braids of lilies knitting
The loose train of thy amber-dropping hair;
Listen for dear honor's sake,
Goddess of the silver lake,
Listen and save.
- Line 859.
- But now my task is smoothly done:
I can fly, or I can run.
- Line 1012.
- Love Virtue, she alone is free,
She can teach ye how to climb
Higher than the sphery chime;
Or, if Virtue feeble were,
Heav'n itself would stoop to her.
- Line 1019.