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brothers may be near, she will guide them to her by a song. Accordingly, she sings the song beginning "Sweet Echo,”the first song in the masque according to Milton's arrangement of it, but the second in Lawes's stage-arrangement. It is not her brothers that the song brings to her, but Comus, who has been listening in admiration. Appearing before her in the guise of a shepherd, he tells her he has seen her brothers, and offers to lead her to them, or to lodge her in his humble cottage till they can be found in the morning. Scarcely has she accepted the offer and left the scene with Comus, when her two brothers appear,--the boys, Viscount Brackley and Mr. Thomas Egerton, also greatly cheered, of course. They discuss with great anxiety the situation of their sister, the elder comforting the younger, till their conversation is interrupted by a far-off holloa. Lest it should be a robber, they draw their swords. But it is their father's faithful shepherd, Thyrsis; or rather they think it is he,-for in reality it is the good Attendant Spirit, who has been taking note of all that has befallen the Lady, and who, in meeting the brothers, has assumed the disguise of one well known to them. He explains the state of affairs, and greatly alarms the younger brother by his account of Comus and his crew. The elder, though more steady, is for rushing at once to the haunt of the magician and dragging him to death. But the Attendant Spirit, as Thyrsis, explaining that such violence will be vain against the craft of a sorcerer, proposes rather that they should avail themselves of the power of a certain precious plant, called Hæmony, of which a portion had once been given him by a certain skilful shepherd-lad of his acquaintance. He had tested the virtue of this plant to ward off enchantments, for he had already approached Comus safely by means of it; and he now proposes that they should all three confront Comus with its aid. The Brothers agree, and they and the supposed Thyrsis go off. Then the scene changes before the eyes of the audience, representing "a stately palace, set out with all manner of deliciousness; soft music; tables spread with dainties"; the Lady in an enchanted chair, with Comus pressing her to drink out of a glass, while his rabble stand around. There is a matchless dialogue between the Lady and Comus,—an argument of Purity or Abstinence against Sensuality, in which Purity overcomes and defies its enemy.
The Sorcerer, awed, but still persevering, prays the Lady only to taste, when her Brothers rush in with drawn swords, wrest the glass from his hand, and dash it to pieces. Comus and his crew resist slightly, but are driven away and dispersed. Thyrsis then, coming in after the Brothers, finds that unfortunately they have not attended to his instruction to seize the enchanter's wand. The Lady is still marble-bound to her chair, from which the motion of the wand might have freed her. To effect this, Thyrsis proposes a new device. It is to invoke Sabrina, the nymph of the adjacent and far-famed Severn river. Who so likely to succour distressed maidenhood as she, that daughter of Locrine, the son of Brutus, who, as ancient British legends told, had flung herself, to preserve her honour, into the stream which had since borne her name? By way of invocation of Sabrina, Thyrsis (i.e. Lawes) sings what is now the second song in the masque, but is the third in Lawes's arrangement, the exquisite song beginning "Sabrina fair." Obeying the invocation, Sabrina rises, attended by water-nymphs, and sings the song "By the rushy-fringed bank,”—the third song in Milton's arrangement, the fourth in Lawes's. She then performs the expected office of releasing the Lady by sprinkling drops of pure water upon her and touching thrice her lips and finger-tips. Sabrina descends, and the Lady rises from her seat. But, though she is now free from the spell of Comus in his enchanted wood, it remains to convey her and her brothers safely to their father's residence, where their arrival is waited for. Accordingly, after an ode of thanks to Sabrina for her good service, with blessings on the stream that bears her name, the supposed Thyrsis continues :
"Come, Lady; while Heaven lends us grace,
His wished presence, and beside
All the swains that there abide
Will double all their mirth and cheer.
Come, let us haste! the stars grow high,
Thyrsis, the Lady, and the two Brothers, here leave the stage, and are supposed to be gradually wending their way through the wood, while it is still night, or very early morning, towards Ludlow Castle. While the spectators are imagining this, the journey of some furlongs is actually achieved; for straightway "the scene changes, presenting Ludlow Town and the President's Castle: then come in country dancers; after them the Attendant Spirit, with the two Brothers and the Lady." In this stage-direction it seems to be implied that the spectators now looked on some canvas at the back of the stage, representing Ludlow Town, and the exterior of the very castle they were sitting in, all bright on a sunshiny morning, and that, as they looked, there came in first a bevy of rustic lads and lasses, or representatives of such, dancing and making merry, till their clodhopping rounds were interrupted by the appearance among them of the guardian Thyrsis and the three graceful young ones. This is confirmed by what Thyrsis says to the dancers in the song which stands fourth in the printed masque, but must have been the fifth in the actual performance :
Back, shepherds, back! Enough your play
So dismissed, the clodhoppers vanish; and there remain on the stage, facing the Earl and Countess and the audience, only (we may drop the disguise now, as doubtless the audience did in their cheering) the musician Lawes, the Lady Alice, and her brothers Viscount Brackley and Master Thomas Egerton. Advancing towards the Earl and Countess, Lawes presents to them his charge, with this continuation of his last song:
Noble Lord and Lady bright,
Three fair branches of your own," etc.
There seems still to have been a dance at this point, to show off the courtly grace of the young people after the thumping energy of the clodhoppers; for at the end of Lawes's song there comes this last stage-direction, "The dances ended, the Spirit epiloguizes.' That is to say, Lawes, relapsing into his character of the Attendant Spirit, who had descended from Heaven at the beginning of the piece, and had acted so beneficially through it in the guise of the shepherd Thyrsis, winds up the whole by a final speech or song as he slowly recedes or reascends. In our printed copies the Epilogue is a longish speech; but part of that speech, as we have seen, had been transferred, in the actual performance, to the beginning of the masque, as the Spirit's opening song. Therefore in the actual performance the closing lines of the Epilogue as we now have it served as the Spirit's song of reascent or departure, in two stanzas :
"Now my task is smoothly done:
I can fly, or I can run,
Quickly to the green Earth's end,
Where the bowed welkin slow doth bend,
And from thence can soar as soon
To the corners of the moon.
"Mortals that would follow me,
Love Virtue! She alone is free:
Heaven itself would stoop to her."
And So, "with these sounds left on the ear, and a final glow of angelic light on the eye, the performance ends, and the audience rises and disperses through the Castle. The Castle is now a crumbling ruin, along the ivy-clad walls and through the dark passages of which the visitor clambers or gropes his way, disturbing the crows and the martlets in their recesses: but one can stand yet in the doorway through which the parting guests of that night descended into the inner court; and one can see where the stage was, on which the sister was lost by her brothers, and Comus revelled with his crew, and the Lady was fixed as marble by enchantment, and the swains danced in welcome of the Earl, and the Spirit ascended gloriously to his native
heaven. More mystic still it is to leave the ruins, and, descending one of the winding streets of Ludlow that lead from the Castle to the valley of the Teme, to look upwards to Castle and Town seen as one picture, and, marking more expressly the three long pointed windows that gracefully slit the chief face of the wall towards the north, to realise that it was from that ruin and from those windows in the ruin, that the verse of Comus was first shaken into the air of England."- -So I wrote a good many years ago, when the impressions of a visit I had made to Ludlow were fresh and vivid; and as I copy the words now, they bring back, as it were in a dream, the pleasant memory of one bygone day. I remember my first sight of the hilly town as I walked into it early on a summer's morning, when not a soul was astir, and the clean streets were all silent and shuttered; then my ramble at my own will for an hour or so over the Castle ruins and the green knoll they crown, undisturbed by guide or any figure of fellow-tourist; then my descent again, past and round the great church and its tombs, into the steep town streets, now beginning their bustle for a marketday; and, finally, the lazy circuit I made round the green outskirts of the town, through I know not what glens and up their sloping sides, the ruined Castle always finely distinct close at hand, and in the distance, wherever the eye could range unopposed, a fairy horizon of dim blue mountains.
There is no evidence that Milton himself had taken the journey of 150 miles from London or Horton in order to be present at the performance. It is possible that he had done so; but it is just as possible that he had not, and even that the authorship of the masque was kept a secret at the time of its performance, known only to Lawes, or to Lawes and the Earl's family. But the Earl of Bridgewater's masque began to be talked of beyond Ludlow; as time passed, and the rumour of it spread, and perhaps the songs in it were carried vocally into London society by Lawes and his pupils of the Bridgewater family, it was still more talked of; and there came to be inquiries respecting its authorship, and requests for copies of it, and especially of the songs. All this we learn from Lawes. His loyalty to his friend Milton in the whole affair was admirable; and he appears to have been more proud, in his own heart, of his concern with the comparatively