Comus. Nay, lady, sit; if I but wave this wand,

Your nerves are all chained up in alabaster,

And you a statue, or as Daphne was

Root-bound, that fled Apollo,

Lady.                                   Fool, do not boast;

Thou canst not touch the freedom of my mind

With all thy charms, although this corporeal rind

Thou hast immanacled, while Heav'n sees good.

   Comus.  Why are you vexed lady? why do you frown?

Here dwell no frown, 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

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 fragnant syrups mixed.

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,

And harshly deal like an ill borrower

With that which you received on other terms,

Scorning the unexempt condition

By which all mortal frailty must subsist,

Refreshment after toil, ease after pain,

That have been tir'd all day without repast,

And timely rest have wanted; but, fair virgin,

This will restore all soon.

   Lady.                          'Twill not, false traitor,

'Twill not restore the truth and honesty

That thou hast banished from thy tongue with lies.

Was this the cottage and the safe abode

Thou told'st me of? What grim aspécts are these,

These ugly-headed monsters? Mercy guard me!

Hence with thy brewed enchantments, foul deceiver,

Hast thou betrayed my credulous innocence

With vizored falsehood and base forgery,

And wouldst thou seek again to trap me here

With lickerish baits fit to ensnare a brute?

Were it a draught for Juno when she banquets,

I would not taste thy treasonous offer; none

But such as are good men can give good things,

To a well-governed and wise appetite.

   Comus. O foolishness of men! that lend their ears

To those budge doctors of the Stoic fur,

And fetch their precepts from the Cynic tub,

Praising the lean and sallow Abstinence.

Wherefore did Nature pour her bounties forth

With such a full and unwithdrawing hand,

Covering the earth with odors, fruits, and flocks,

Thronging the seas with spawn innumerable,

But all to please and sate the curious taste?

And set to work millions of spinning worms,

That in their green shops weave the smooth-haired silk

To deck her sons; and that no corner might

Be vacant of her plenty, in her own loins

She hutched th' all-worshiped ore and precious gems

To store her children with. If all the world

Should in a pet of temperance feed on pulse,

Drink the clear stream, and nothing wear but frieze,

Th' All-giver would be unthanked, would be unpraised,

Not half his riches known, and yet despised,

And we should serve him as a grudging master,

As a penurious niggard of his wealth,

And live like Nature's bastards, not her sons,

Who would be quite surcharged with her own weight,

And strangled with her waste fertility;

Th' earth cumbered, and the winged air darkened with plumes;

The herds would over-multitude their lords,

The sea o'erfraught would swell, and th' unsought diamonds

Would so emblaze the forehead of the deep,

And so bestud with stars, that they below

Would grow inured to light and come at last

To gaze upon the sun with shameless brows.

List, lady, be not coy, and be not cozened

With that same vaunted name Virginity;

Beauty is Nature's coin, must not be hoarded,

But must be current, and the good thereof

Consist in mutual and partaken bliss,

Unsavory in th' enjoyment of itself

If you let slip time, like a neglected rose

It withers on the stalk with languished head.

Beauty is Nature's brag, and must be shown

In courts, in feasts, and high solemnities

Where most may wonder at the workmanship;

It is for the home 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 housewife's wool.

What need a vermeil-tinctured lip for that,

Love-darting eyes, of tresses like the morn?

There was another meaning in these gifts,

Think what, and be advised; you are but young yet.

   Lady.  I had not thought to have unlocked my lips

In this unhallowed air, but that this juggler

Would think to charm my judgement, as mine eyes,

Obtruding false rules pranked in reason's garb.

I hate when vice can bolt her arguments,

And virtue has no tongue to check her pride.

Impostor, do not charge most innocent Nature,

As if she would her children should be riotous

With her abundance; she, good cateress,

Means her provision only to the good,

That live according to her sober laws

And holy dictate of spare Temperance.

If every man that now pine with want

Had but a moderate and beseeming share

Of that which lewdly pampered luxury

Now heaps upon some few with vast excess,

Nature's full blessings would be well dispensed

In unsuperfluous even proportion,

And she no whit encumbered with her store;

His praise due paid, for swinish gluttony

But with besotted base ingratitude

Crams, and blasphemes his Feeder. Shall I go on?

Or have I said enough? To him that dares

Arms his profane tongue with contemptuous words

Against the sun-clad power of Chastity,

Fain would I something say, yet to what end?

Thou hast no ear nor soul to apprehend

The sublime notion and high mystery

That must be uttered to unfold the sage

And serious doctrine of Virginity,

And thou art worthy that thou shouldst not know

More happiness than this thy present lot.

Enjoy your dear wit and gay rhetoric

That hath so well been taught her dazzling fence;

Thou art not fit to hear thyself convinced.

Yet should I try, the uncontrolled worth

Of this pure cause would kindle my rapt spirits

To such a flame of sacred vehemence

That dumb things would be moved to sympathize,

And the brute Earth would lend her nerves, and shake,

Till all thy magic structures, reared so high,

Were shattered into heaps o'er thy false head.

   Comus.  She fables not. I feel that I do fear

Her words sett off by some superior power;

And though not mortal, yet a cold shudd'ring dew

Sips me all o'er, as when the wrath of Jove

Speaks thunder and the chains of Erebus

To some of the Saturn's crew. I must dissemble,

And try her yet more strongly. Come, no more,

This is mere mortal babble, and direct

Against the canon laws of our foundation;

I must not suffer this, yet 'tis but the lees

And settling of a melancholy blood;

But this will cure all straight; one sip of this

Will bathe the drooping spirits in delight

Beyond the bliss of dreams. Be wise, and taste.


John Milton (1608-1674)


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