Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Restoration Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Restoration Verse.  1910.
 
L’Allegro
By John Milton (1608–1674)
 
HENCE loathèd Melancholy
  Of Cerberus, 1 and blackest midnight born,
In Stygian Cave 2 forlorn
  ’Mongst horrid shapes, and shreiks, and sights unholy,
Find out som uncouth cell,        5
  Where brooding darkness spreads his jealous wings,
And the night-Raven sings;
  There under Ebon shades, and low-brow’d Rocks,
As ragged as thy Locks,
  In dark Cimmerian desert 3 ever dwell.        10
But com thou Goddes fair and free,
In Heav’n ycleap’d Euphrosyne, 4
And by men, heart-easing Mirth,
Whom lovely Venus at a birth
With two sister Graces more        15
To Ivy-crownèd Bacchus bore;
Or whether (as som Sager sing)
The frolick Wind that breathes the Spring,
Zephir with Aurora playing,
As he met her once a Maying,        20
There on Beds of Violets blew,
And fresh-blown Roses washt in dew,
Fill’d her with thee a daughter fair,
So bucksom, blith, and debonair.
Haste thee nymph, and bring with thee        25
Jest and youthful Jollity,
Quips and Cranks, and wanton Wiles,
Nods, and Becks, and Wreathèd Smiles,
Such as hang on Hebe’s 5 cheek,
And love to live in dimple sleek,        30
Sport that wrincled Care derides,
And Laughter holding both his sides.
Com, 6 and trip it as ye go
On the light fantastick toe,
And in thy right hand lead with thee,        35
The Mountain Nymph, sweet Liberty;
And if I give thee honour due,
Mirth, admit me of thy crue
To live with her, and live with thee,
In unreprovèd pleasures free;        40
To hear the Lark begin his flight,
And singing startle the dull night,
From his watch-towre in the skies,
Till the dappled dawn doth rise;
Then to com in spight of sorrow,        45
And at my window bid good morrow,
Through the Sweet-Briar, or the Vine,
Or the twisted Eglantine. 7
While the Cock with lively din,
Scatters the rear of darkness thin,        50
And to the stack, or the Barn dore,
Stoutly struts his Dames before,
Oft list’ning how the Hounds and horn
Chearly rouse the slumbring morn,
From the side of som Hoar Hill, 8        55
Through the high wood echoing shrill,
Som time walking not unseen
By Hedge-row Elms, on Hillocks green,
Right against the Eastern gate,
Wher the great Sun begins his state, 9        60
Rob’d in flames, and Amber light,
The clouds in thousand Liveries dight.
While the Plowman neer at hand,
Whistles ore the Furrow’d Land,
And the Milkmaid singeth blithe,        65
And the Mower whets his sithe,
And every Shepherd tells his tale 10
Under the Hawthorn in the dale.
Streit mine eye hath caught new pleasures
Whilst the Lantskip round it measures,        70
Russet Lawns, 11 and Fallows Gray, 12
Where the nibling flocks do stray,
Mountains on whose barren brest
The labouring clouds do often rest:
Meadows trim with Daisies pide,        75
Shallow Brooks, and Rivers wide.
Towers, and Battlements 13 it sees
Boosom’d high in tufted Trees,
Wher perhaps som beauty lies,
The Cynosure 14 of neighbouring eyes.        80
Hard by, a Cottage chimney smokes,
From betwixt two aged Okes,
Where Corydon and Thyrsis met,
Are at their savory dinner set
Of Hearbs, and other Country Messes,        85
Which the neat-handed Phillis dresses;
And then in haste her Bowre she leaves,
With Thestylis to bind the Sheaves;
Or if the earlier season lead
To the tann’d Haycock in the Mead,        90
Som times with secure delight
The up-land Hamlets will invite,
When the merry Bells ring round,
And the jocond rebecks sound
To many a youth, and many a maid,        95
Dancing in the Chequer’d shade;
And young and old com forth to play
On a Sunshine Holyday,
Till the live-long day-light fail,
Then to the Spicy Nut-brown Ale,        100
With stories told of many a feat,
How Faery Mab the junkets eat,
She was pincht, and pull’d she sed,
And he by Friars Lanthorn led
Tells how the drudging Goblin swet,        105
To ern his Cream-bowle duly set,
When in one night, ere glimps of morn,
His shadowy Flale hath thresh’d the Corn
That ten day-labourers could not end,
Then lies him down the Lubbar Fend. 15        110
And stretch’d out all the Chimney’s length,
Basks at the fire his hairy strength;
And Crop-full out of dores he flings,
Ere the first Cock his Mattin rings.
Thus don the Tales, to bed they creep,        115
By whispering Windes soon lull’d asleep.
Towred Cities please us then,
And the busie humm of men,
Where throngs of Knights and Barons bold,
In weeds of Peace high triumphs hold,        120
With store of Ladies, whose bright eies
Rain influence, and judge the prise
Of Wit, or Arms, while both contend
To win her Grace, whom all commend
There let Hymen oft appear        125
In Saffron robe, with Taper clear,
And pomp, and feast, and revelry,
With mask, and antique Pageantry,
Such sights as youthfull Poets dream
On Summer eeves by haunted stream.        130
Then to the well-trod stage anon,
If Jonsons learnèd Sock 16 be on,
Or sweetest Shakespear 17 fancies childe,
Warble his native Wood-notes wilde,
And ever against eating Cares,        135
Lap me in soft Lydian Aires,
Married to immortal verse
Such as the meeting soul may pierce
In notes, with many a winding bout
Of linckèd sweetnes long drawn out,        140
With wanton heed, and giddy cunning,
The melting voice through mazes running;
Untwisting all the chains that ty
The hidden soul of harmony.
That Orpheus self may heave his head        145
From golden slumber on a bed
Of heapt Elysian flowres, and hear
Such streins as would have won the ear
Of Pluto, to have quite set free
His half regain’d Eurydice.        150
These delights, if thou canst give,
Mirth with thee, I mean to live.
 
Note 1. Cerberus: Erebus, was the spouse of night, but “Milton, in order to have Melancholy inspire horrour and repulsion, invented the present genealogy” (Huntingdon). [back]
Note 2. Stygian cave: where arrived the shades ferried across by Charon. [back]
Note 3. Cimmerian desert: the “land and city of the Cimmerians, shrouded in mist and cloud, and never does the shining sun look down on them with his rays, neither when he climbs up the starry heavens nor when again he turns earthward from the firmament but deadly night is outspread over miserable mortals” (Odyssey, xi. 13–19, Butcher and Lang). [back]
Note 4. Euphrosyne: “The first parentage assigned to Euphrosyne (on the strength of a scholiast’s commentary to the Æneid) makes her the half sister of Comus, who was the son of Circe by Bacchus. Euphrosyne represents innocent pleasure; Comus represents evil, sensual pleasure. In the double parentage Milton has in mind two ideals of innocent pleasure—that which springs from Wine and Love, and that which springs from Dawn and the light breezes of summer” (Moody, Cambridge edition). [back]
Note 5. Hebe: cup-bearer to the gods, and personification of eternal youth. [back]
Note 6. Then come: this obscure passage has been discussed and interpreted by many editors. Masson’s explanation seems the more favourably accepted: “Milton, or whoever the imaginary speaker is, asks Mirth to admit him to her company, and that of the nymph Liberty, and let him enjoy the pleasures natural to such companionship (38–40). He then goes on to specify such pleasures, or to give examples of them. The first (41–44) is that of sensations of early morning, when, walking round a country cottage, one hears the song of the mounting sky-lark, welcoming the signs of sunrise. The second is that of coming to the cottage window, looking in, and bidding a cheerful good-morrow, through the sweet-briar, vine, or eglantine, to those of the family who are astir.” [back]
Note 7. Sweet-briar … eglantine: these plants being identical, it is supposed by Warton, Milton meant the honeysuckle; by Keightley, the dog-rose. [back]
Note 8. Hoar Hill: i.e., covered with hoar-frost. [back]
Note 9. His state: “triumphal progress, like that of a monarch, with the clouds ‘in thousand liveries dight’ as the sun’s attendants” (Moody, Cambridge edition). [back]
Note 10. Tells his tale: tale is here used in the sense of “number,” and tells, in the sense of “count:” thus meaning “every shepherd counts his sheep;” “Certainly,” says Mr. Moody, “a more realistic morning occupation than story-telling.” [back]
Note 11. Russet lawns: open lands or fields, quite different from our present meaning of a plot of grass in the front of a modern house. [back]
Note 12. Fallows gray: “a fallow is a piece of ploughed land left unsown” (Masson). [back]
Note 13. Towers and Battlements: Masson declares that these “are almost evidently Windsor Castle” which was not far from Horton where Milton was living when he composed the poem. [back]
Note 14. Cynosure: literally Dog’s Tail, applied to the constellation of the Lesser Bear, containing the Pole-Star, which was fancifully supposed to resemble a dog. By this constellation the Phœnician mariners steered, while the Greek mariners directed their course by the Greater Bear. The metaphorical meaning is the “object upon which the attention is fixed.” [back]
Note 15. Lubbar-Fend: lubbar-fiend. [back]
Note 16. Johnson’s learnèd Sock: the sock, from Latin soccus, the low-heeled slipper worn by actors in ancient comedy, and contrasted to the buskin, from cothurnus, or high-heeled boot worn by tragic actors. The allusion is to Jonson’s great erudition as displayed in his remarkable comedies. [back]
Note 17. Sweetest Shakespear: despite Milton’s couplets, the epitaph On Shakespear, 1630, this characterisation of the great dramatist, exquisite as it is, rather leaves the impression that Milton did not fully appreciate the superior genius of Shakespeare. [back]
 
 
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