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He did so in 1637 in a small, and now very rare, quarto of 40 pages, with this title-page :
"A Maske presented at Ludlow Castle, 1634, on Michaelmasse Night, before the Right Honourable John, Earle of Bridgewater, Viscount Brackley, Lord President of Wales, and one of his Majesties' most honourable Privy Counsell.
'Eheu quid volui misero mihi! floribus Austrum
London: Printed for Humphrey Robinson, at the signe of the Three Pidgeons in Paul's Churchyard, 1637.”
The volume was dedicated by Lawes to the Earl's son and heir, young Viscount Brackley, who had acted the part of Elder Brother in the masque. Dedication complete will be found prefixed to Comus in the present edition. We learn from it that the proposal of publication was Lawes's own, and that Milton still preferred the shelter of the anonymous. That Lawes had Milton's consent, however, is proved by the motto on the title-page. It is from Virgil's Second Eclogue, and must certainly have been supplied by Milton. "Alas! "what have I chosen for my wretched self; thus on my flowers, infatuated that "I am, letting in the rude wind!" So says the shepherd in Virgil's Eclogue ; and Milton, in borrowing the words, hints his fear that he may have done ill in letting his Comus be published. Though he was now twenty-eight years of age, it was actually, with hardly an exception, his first public venture in print. He had no reason to regret the venture. "Comus," says Hallam, "sufficient to convince any one of taste and feeling that a great poet had "arisen in England, and one partly formed in a different school from his contemporaries.' Such a strong judgment is easily formed now; but there may have been some in England capable of forming it when it was a merit to form it, i.e. in 1637 (the year of Ben Jonson's death), when modest copies of Lawes's edition, without the author's name, were first in circulation. We know of one Englishman, at all events, who did form it and express it. Milton's near neighbour at Horton, Sir Henry Wotton, Provost of Eton College. Born in 1568, mixed up with political affairs in Elizabeth's reign, and in the height of his active career through that of James-when he had been English Ambassador to various foreign Courts, but had resided, in that capacity, most continuously at Venice-Sir Henry, since Charles came to the throne, had been in veteran retirement in the quiet post of the Eton provostship, respected by all England for his past diplomatic services, but living chiefly on his memories of those services, his Italian experiences in particular, and in the delights of pictures, books, and scholarly society. Some chance introduction had brought Milton and the aged Knight together for the first time early in 1638, when Milton was preparing for his journey to Italy; and on the 6th of April in that year Milton, by way of parting acknowledgment of Sir Henry's courtesy, sent him a letter with a copy of Lawes's edition of his Comus. Sir Henry, it appears, had read the poem in a previous copy, without knowing who was the author ; and, writing in reply to Milton on the 13th of April, just in time to overtake him before he left England, he mentioned this fact, and expressed his pleasure at finding that a poem that he had liked so singularly was by his neighbour and new acquaintance. "A dainty piece of entertainment," he calls it, wherein I should much commend the tragical part [i.e. the dialogue] if the lyrical did not ravish me with a certain Doric delicacy in your songs and "odes; whereunto I must plainly confess to have seen yet nothing parallel in
our language." Here was praise worth having, and which did, as we know, gratify Milton. He was actually on the move towards Italy when he read Sir Henry Wotton's letter.
When, in 1645, six years after his return from Italy, Milton, then in the very midst of his pamphleteering activity, and of the ill-will which it had brought him, consented to the publication by Moseley of the first collective edition of his Poems, Comus was still, in respect of length and merit, his chief poetical achievement. Accordingly, he not only reprinted it in that edition, but gave it the place of honour there. It came last of the English Poems, with a separate title-page, thus:-"A Mask of the same Author, presented at Ludlow Castle, 1634, before the Earl of Bridgewater, then President of Wales: Anno Dom. 1645." The title-page of Lawes's edition of 1637 was, of course, cancelled by this new one; but Lawes's Dedication of that edition to young Viscount Brackley was retained, and there was inserted also, by way of pendant to that Dedication, Sir Henry Wotton's courteous letter of April 13, 1638. The courteous old Sir Henry was then dead; but Milton rightly considered that his word from the grave might be important in the circumstances. And so this Second Edition of the Comus, thus distinguished and set-off as part of the First collective Edition of the Poems, served all the demand till 1673, when the Second collective Edition of the Poems appeared. Comus was, of course, retained in that edition, as still the largest and chief of Milton's minor Poems; but it was made less mechanically conspicuous than in the earlier edition. It did not come last among the English Poems, being followed by the translations of some Psalms; and it had no separate title-page, but only the heading, “A Mask presented at Ludlow Castle, 1634," &c. Lawes's Dedication of the edition of 1637 and Sir Henry Wotton's letter were likewise omitted.
In none of the three first printed editions, it will be observed (Lawes's of 1637, Milton's of 1645, and Milton's of 1673), is the poem entitled COMUS. Nor is there any such title in Milton's original draft among the Cambridge MSS., nor in that Bridgewater transcript which is supposed to have been the stage-copy. "A Mask presented," &c.: such, with slight variations in the phrasing, was the somewhat vague name of the piece while Milton lived. It was really inconvenient, however, that such a poem should be without a briefer and more specific name. Accordingly, that of COMUS, from one of the chief persons of the drama, has been unanimously and very properly adopted.
Although the word comus, or kμos, signifying "revel or "carousal," or sometimes "a band of revellers," is an old Greek common noun, with various cognate terms (such as κωμάζω, "to revel," and kwμwdla, comedy), the personification or proper name COMUS appears to have been an invention of the later classic mythology. In the Eikóves, or "Descriptions of Pictures," by Philostratus, a Greek author of the third century of our era, COMUS is represented as a winged god, seen in one picture "drunk and languid after a repast, his head sunk on his breast, slumbering in a standing attitude, and his legs crossed" (Smith's Dict. of Greek and Roman Biog. and Myth.). But, in fact, poets were left at liberty to fancy Comus, or the god Revel, very much as their own notions of what constitutes mirth or revel directed them; and the use of this liberty might perhaps be traced in the tradition of Comus, and the allusions to him in the poetry of different modern nations, down to Milton's time.
Comus is an occasional personage among the English Elizabethan poets;
and he figures especially in Ben Jonson's masque of "Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue, presented at Court before King James, 1619." There he appears riding in triumph, as "the god of Good Cheer or the Belly, his head covered "with roses and other flowers, his hair curled;" and his attendants, crowned with ivy, and bearing a large bowl before him, salute him thus :
"Hail, hail, plump paunch! O the founder of taste
An emptier of cups, be they even or odd;
All which have now made thee so wide in the waist
As scarce with no pudding thou art to be laced;
But, eating and drinking until thou dost nod,
Thou break'st all thy girdles, and break'st forth a god."
Clearly Milton did not take his idea of the character of Comus from Ben Jonson's masque. A work to which it is more likely that he was in some small degree indebted is a Latin extravaganza, called Comus, sive Phagesiposia Cimmeria: Somnium, by the Dutchman Erycius Puteanus. This writer, whose real name was Hendrik van der Putten, was born at Venlo in Holland in 1574, and, after having been for some time in Italy, became Professor of Eloquence and Classical Literature at Louvain, where he died in 1646. He was "the author of an infinity of books," says Bayle (Dict. : Art. Puteanus); among which was the one whose title we have given. It was first published in 1608; but there were subsequent editions, including one brought out at Oxford in 1634, the very year of Milton's masque. The subject of the piece of Erycius Puteanus, which is written mostly in prose, with a mixture of verse, is the description of a dream in which the author visits the palace of Comus, the genius of Love and Cheerfulness, beholds him and his disguised guests at a banquet and subsequent torch-lit orgies, and listens to various dialogues on the voluptuous theory of life. In this dream Comus is a decidedly more graceful being than the lumbering god of good cheer in Ben Jonson's masque. He also, like Ben Jonson's Comus, is represented with curled and rose-crowned hair, but he is soft-gestured and youthful," and personates a more subtle notion of Revel.
After all, however, Milton's Comus is a creation of his own, for which he was as little indebted intrinsically to Puteanus as to Ben Jonson. For the purpose of his masque at Ludlow Castle he was bold enough to add a bran-new god, no less, to the classic Pantheon, and to import him into Britain, and particularly into Shropshire. Observe his parentage. Comus, the god of Sensual Pleasure, is not, with Milton, mere Gluttony, as he is in Jonson's masque; nor is he the mere modification of Feast and the Wine-god pictured by Philostratus and adopted by Puteanus. He is a son of the Winegod certainly, but it is by the sorceress Circe; and, though he has much of his father's nature, he has more of the thrilling mercilessness and magical subtlety of his mother's. It is not for nothing that Milton, in his account of him, almost cites the description of Circe and her enchanted Island in the 10th Book of the Odyssey. There will be found throughout the masque more of real borrowing from Homer's picture of the experience of Ulysses and his companions on Circe's Island than from the extravaganza of Puteanus. Thus, to give but one instance, the magical root Hæmony, by whose powers, explained to the two Brothers by the Attendant Spirit (lines 617-656), they are enabled to defy the spells of Comus and attempt the rescue of their sister,
is an avowed adaptation of the divine herb Moly given by Hermes to Ulysses (Odyss. X. 286 et seq.) to enable him to withstand those drugs of Circe that had wrought such woe on his companions. Commentators, however, have found traces in the masque of Milton's acquaintance also with George Peele's comedy of The Old Wives' Tale (1595) and Fletcher's pastoral of The Faithful Shepherdess, originally produced before 1625, and revived as a Court play and acted in the London theatres in 1633-4. In neither of these pieces is COMUS a character; but in the first there is a story of two brothers wandering in search of their lost sister and releasing her from the spell of an Enchanter, and in both there are passages in which one may descry or fancy some slight resemblance to some in Comus.
On the 9th of June, 1626, when Milton had been for about sixteen months a student at Christ's College, Cambridge, there were admitted into that college, as appears from its records, two brothers, named King, sons of Sir John King, Knight, then living in Dublin, as Privy Councillor for Ireland and Secretary to the Irish Government. The family was English; but various members of it, in addition to Sir John, held offices in Ireland. Edward King, for example, Sir John's brother, was bishop of the Irish see of Elphin. Both the young men had been born in Ireland-the elder, named Roger, near Dublin; and the younger, named Edward after his uncle, at Boyle in Connaught. At the date of their admission into Christ's College, Roger was sixteen years of age, and Edward fourteen. They had previously been pupils of Mr. Thomas Farnaby, one of the most noted schoolmasters of the time, whose school then was in Goldsmith's Rents, Cripplegate, London. The tutor under whose care they were put at Christ's College was Mr. William Chappell, who was also Milton's first tutor there, and who became afterwards Provost of Trinity College, Dublin, and Dean of Cashel, and finally a bishop in the Irish Church. Edward King, the younger of the two brothers, seems to have been one of the most popular young men in Christ's College during Milton's residence there. He and Milton must have seen much of each other. They must have had frequent meetings in hall, at lecture, and in each other's rooms, and frequent walks about Cambridge together. Milton, as we know, was indubitably the chief ornament of the little community, its ablest and noblest youth, supreme in everything; and, before he left college as M.A. in July 1632, aged twenty-three, this had come to be recognised. But, among those who had been his fellow-students in college, and whom he left behind him there, there were several of whom high things were expected. John Cleveland, afterwards known as a metrical Satirist, was one; and the future celebrated "Platonist," Henry More, who had joined the college just as Milton was about to leave it, was another. Probably, however, no one was more liked in the college, both by dons and by students, than Edward King. Indeed, before Milton left the college, King, by what looks now like a promotion over Milton's head, had become himself one of the dons. On June 10, 1630, a Fellowship in Christ's College being then about to fall vacant, a royal mandate was addressed to the Master and Fellows of the college in behalf of Edward King, B.A., willing and requiring them, when the Fellowship should be vacant, to "admit "the said Edward King into the same, notwithstanding any statute, ordinance,
or constitution to the contrary." Had such college honours then gone by merit, Milton, then a B. A. of two years' standing, would have had a far superior claim. As it was, however, King, though his junior by three years, and only just out of his undergraduateship, received the Fellowship, and thus took nominal precedence of Milton during Milton's last two years at Christ's. The royal mandate in King's favour was clearly owing to his family connexions and influence; but to so popular a young scholar the preferment does not appear to have been grudged. Not only was he a favourite on account of his amiable character; he really was, as the royal mandate represented him, a youth of "hopeful parts." This we learn, however, rather from tradition than from any specimens of his ability that have come down to us. The earliest of such specimens that I have found are in a volume put forth by the Cambridge University press late in 1631 under the title of Genethliacum illustrissimorum principum, Caroli et Maria, a Musis Cantabrigiensibus celebratum. It consists of complimentary Latin pieces by some scores of Cambridge men, of different colleges, on the recent birth of the Princess Mary, the third child of Charles I., but with retrospective reference to the birth in the previous year (May 29, 1630) of the Prince of Wales, afterwards Charles II. Among the contributors is Edward King, Fellow of Christ's College. He contributes four short Latin pieces-one in hexameters, one in Horatian verse, and two in elegiacs. They are not very poetical or elegant, and indeed are rather prosaic. But in such customary verses of compliment to Royalty one had not much scope; and King had probably written better things, in Latin and in English, known to his fellow-collegians in Christ's, and to Milton among them. When Milton left the college, there seems to have been no one in it for whom he had a higher regard, morally at least, than Edward King.
Five years had elapsed since then, during which Milton, living chiefly at his father's country place, at Horton in Buckinghamshire, some sixty miles from Cambridge, can have seen King but occasionally. He would still hear, however, of King's progress and continued popularity in his Fellowship. In July 1633, we find, King took his full degree of M.A.; and there are subsequent traces of him in the records of the college, while he was qualifying himself for the Church-the profession for which Milton also had been originally destined, but which he had abandoned. He was Tutor in the college, as well as Fellow; and in 1634-5 he was "prælector," and the admissions into the college for that year are still to be seen in his handwriting in the college-books. At least six more specimens of his Latin versification have been discovered, belonging to this period. There is a copy of Latin Iambics by him in a volume of Cambridge University verses on the King's recovery from small-pox (1633); he furnished another copy of Latin Iambics to a similar collection of academic congratulations on the King's return from his coronation-visit to Scotland (July 1633); there are some commendatory Latin Iambics of King's prefixed to Senile Odium, a Latin play by Peter Hausted, M. A. of Queen's College, acted at Cambridge in 1631, but not published till 1633; he has a set of Latin elegiacs in a Cambridge collection of verses on the birth of the Duke of York (Oct. 1633); he has some Horatian stanzas in a similar volume on the birth of the Princess Elizabeth (December 1635); and the latest thing of his I have seen is a copy of Latin Iambics in a collection of pieces, by no fewer than 140 Cambridge scholars, put forth on the birth of the Princess Anne (March 1636-7). Milton's hand does not appear in any of these collections, verses eulogistic of Royalty not being in his way; but he may have seen some of the collections