Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VI. Fancy: Sentiment
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VI. Fancy.  1904.
 
Poems of Fancy: II. Fairies: Elves: Sprites
The Lady lost in the Wood
John Milton (1608–1674)
 
From “Comus

THE LADY.—This way the noise was, if mine ear be true,
My best guide now; methought it was the sound
Of riot and ill-managed merriment,
Such as the jocund flute or gamesome pipe
Stirs up amongst the loose, unlettered hinds,        5
When for their teeming flocks and granges full
In wanton dance they praise the bounteous Pan,
And thank the gods amiss. I should be loath
To meet the rudeness and swilled insolence
Of such late wassailers; yet O, where else        10
Shall I inform my unacquainted feet
In the blind mazes of this tangled wood?
My brothers, when they saw me wearied out
With this long way, resolving here to lodge
Under the spreading favor of these pines,        15
Stepped, as they said, to the next thicket side
To bring me berries, or such cooling fruit
As the kind, hospitable woods provide.
They left me then, when the gray-hooded even,
Like a sad votarist in palmer’s weed,        20
Rose from the hindmost wheels of Phœbus’ wain.
But where they are, and why they came not back,
Is now the labor of my thoughts: ’t is likeliest
They had engaged their wandering steps too far,
And envious darkness, ere they could return,        25
Had stole them from me; else, O thievish night,
Why shouldst thou, but for some felonious end,
In thy dark lantern thus close up the stars,
That nature hung in heaven, and filled their lamps
With everlasting oil, to give due light        30
To the misled and lonely traveller?
This is the place, as well as I may guess,
Whence even now the tumult of loud mirth
Was rife, and perfect in my listening ear,
Yet naught but single darkness do I find.        35
What might this be? A thousand fantasies
Begin to throng into my memory,
Of calling shapes, and beckoning shadows dire,
And airy tongues, that syllable men’s names
On sands and shores and desert wildernesses.        40
These thoughts may startle well, but not astound
The virtuous mind, that ever walks attended
By a strong-siding champion, Conscience.
O welcome, pure-eyed Faith, white-handed Hope,
Thou hovering angel girt with golden wings,        45
And thou unblemished form of Chastity;
I see you visibly, and now believe
That he, the Supreme Good, to whom all things ill
Are but as slavish officers of vengeance,
Would send a glistering guardian, if need were,        50
To keep my life and honor unassailed.
Was I deceived, or did a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night?
I did not err, there does a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night,        55
And casts a gleam over this tufted grove.
I cannot halloo to my brothers; but
Such noise as I can make, to be heard farthest,
I ’ll venture, for my new-enlivened spirits
Prompt me; and they perhaps are not far off.        60
 
 
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