Monday, January 27, 2014


Under the guidance of the attendant Spirit, the Brothers sought the assistance of the Nymph, Sabrina, in disenchanting the Lady. Milton suggested the importance of Sabrina by providing her biography. Sabrina was given refuge in her flight from her father Brutus by Nymphs of the Severn. She became the Goddess of the river and a protector of the needy with a soft place in her heart for virgins like herself.

Original in Huntington Gallery
Milton's Comus
Illustration 7, Thomas Set
A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle, 1634
John Milton

Line 910
"Brightest Lady look on me.
Thus I sprinkle on thy brest
Drops that from my fountain pure,
I have kept of pretious cure,
Thrice upon thy fingers tip,
Thrice upon thy rubied lip, [ 915 ]
Next this marble venom'd seat
Smear'd with gumms of glutenous heat
I touch with chaste palms moist and cold,

Now the spell hath lost his hold"

The cure for the Lady was provided by the agency of water. Everything in Milton's poetry about Sabrina alluded to water: she was saved in water by the Gods of water; all the Gods and Goddesses of water were invoked to secure her assistance for the Lady. Milton like Blake was aware that in Platonic philosophy the symbolic meaning of water is the material world. Blake saw that the introduction of the nymph Sabrina to perform the healing of the Lady indicated that her journey would take her through the world of matter. 

In his poetry Blake developed several symbols to represent man's journey through the material world. Moving through Innocence to Experience and beyond was an image of our journey through life on Earth. The process of creating bodies by Los and Enitharmon was preparation for the travels through generation which man undertakes. The descent from Eden through Beulah into Generation initiated the undertaking of the journey. In Comus, Sabrina's role was to propel the Lady along her journey. The Lady,
like Thel, hesitated to take the risk of engaging with the uncertainties of a fully human existence. Sabrina anointed the Lady with the water of baptism initiating her journey through generation or the material world.  

Thel, Plate 5. (E 6)
"Wilt thou O Queen enter my house. 'tis given thee to enter,
And to return; fear nothing. enter with thy virgin feet.
Plate 6
The eternal gates terrific porter lifted the northern bar:
Thel enter'd in & saw the secrets of the land unknown;
She saw the couches of the dead, & where the fibrous roots
Of every heart on earth infixes deep its restless twists:
A land of sorrows & of tears where never smile was seen.

She wanderd in the land of clouds thro' valleys dark, listning
Dolours & lamentations: waiting oft beside a dewy grave
She stood in silence. listning to the voices of the ground,"

No comments: