Sunday, January 19, 2014


Blake's Illustration 5 shows Comus in his own element in the company of enchanted men with the appearance of birds. His wand and cup stand ready to work their spells. Immobilized the Lady sits on a rectangular chair decorated with women entwined by snakes. The Lady sits demurely with hands crossed over her bosom. 

Original in Huntington Gallery
Milton's Comus
Illustration 5
A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle, 1634
John Milton

[Stage Direction]
"The Scene changes to a stately Palace, set out with all manner of deliciousness; soft Musick, Tables spred with all dainties. Comus appears with his rabble, and the Lady set in an inchanted Chair, to whom he offers his Glass, which she puts by, and goes about to rise.

Line 659

Nay Lady sit; if I but wave this wand,
Your nervs are all chain'd up in Alabaster,
And you a statue; or as Daphne was
Root-bound, that fled Apollo,

Fool do not boast,
Thou canst not touch the freedom of my minde
With all thy charms, although this corporal rinde
Thou haste immanacl'd, while Heav'n sees good."

Comus through deceit has brought the Lady to his Palace in order to entice her with merriment. But to keep her there he has resorted to seating her in an enchanted chair from which she cannot move. The struggle between Comus and the Lady takes the form of a colloquy between the libertine and virtuous. Although the Lady upholds chastity and Comus invites her to 'bliss', their arguments are philosophical and focus our attention on the value of temperance.  

Milton had earlier stated in the lines of the Elder Brother his position concerning the contrast between the enlightened soul and one enslaved in 'his own dungeon'.   

Line 381
"He that has light within his own cleer brest           

May sit i'th center, and enjoy bright day,
But he that hides a dark soul, and foul thoughts
Benighted walks under the mid-day Sun;
Himself is his own dungeon.

The Lady and Comus discuss their positions at great length; she remains spell-bound but firmly stands her ground against her tempter. 
Line 690 Lady
"'Twill not, false traitor,
'Twill not restore the truth and honesty
That thou hast banish't from thy tongue with lies,
Was this the cottage, and the safe abode
Thou told'st me of? What grim aspects are these,
These oughly-headed Monsters? Mercy guard me!
Hence with thy brew'd inchantments, foul deceiver,
Hast thou betrai'd my credulous innocence
With visor'd falshood and base forgery,
And wouldst thou seek again to trap me here
With lickerish baits fit to ensnare a brute?
Were it a draft for Juno when she banquets,

I would not taste thy treasonous offer; none
But such as are good men can give good things,
And that which is not good, is not delicious
To a wel-govern'd and wise appetite."

Line 737
"List Lady be not coy, and be not  cosen'd
With that same vaunted name Virginity,
Beauty is nature's coyn, must not be hoorded,
But must be currant and the good thereof
Consists in mutual and partak'n bliss,
Unsavoury in th' injoyment of it self.
If you let slip time, like a neglected rose
It withers on the stalk with languish't head.
Beauty is natures brag, and must be shown
In courts, at feasts, and high solemnities
Where most may wonder at the workmanship;"

In two of his works Blake tells that the 'soul of sweet delight' cannot be defiled, but he is not speaking of preserving physical chastity. He is speaking of the holiness of life, and the purity of sex as an act of love. Milton's Lady has probably not yet learned this for she is inexperienced, but she may be on her way to doing so.

America, Plate 8, (E 54) 
"To make the desarts blossom, & the deeps shrink to their fountains,
And to renew the fiery joy, and burst the stony roof.
That pale religious letchery, seeking Virginity,                 
May find it in a harlot, and in coarse-clad honesty
The undefil'd tho' ravish'd in her cradle night and morn:
For every thing that lives is holy, life delights in life;
Because the soul of sweet delight can never be defil'd.
Fires inwrap the earthly globe, yet man is not consumd;      
Amidst the lustful fires he walks: his feet become like brass,
His knees and thighs like silver, & his breast and head like gold."  
Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 9, (E 37) 
"The soul of sweet delight. can never be defil'd,"

Visions of Daughters of Albion, Plate 3, (E 47)
"Silent I hover all the night, and all day could be silent.
If Theotormon once would turn his loved eyes upon me;            
How can I be defild when I reflect thy image pure?
Sweetest the fruit that the worm feeds on. & the soul prey'd on by woe
The new wash'd lamb ting'd with the village smoke & the bright swan
By the red earth of our immortal river: I bathe my wings.
And I am white and pure to hover round Theotormons breast."       

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