Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Restoration Verse
William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Restoration Verse.  1910.
Song: ‘Sabrina fair’
By John Milton (1608–1674)
From ‘Comus

  Listen where thou art sitting
Under the glassie, cool, translucent wave,
  In twisted braids of Lillies knitting
The loose train of thy amber-droping 1 hair,        5
  Listen for dear honour’s sake,
  Goddess of the silver lake,
                    Listen and save.
Listen and appear to us
In name of great Oceanus, 2        10
By the earth-shaking Neptune’s 3 mace,
And Tethys 4 grave majestick pace,
By hoary Nereus 5 wrincled look,
And the Carpathian wisards 6 hook,
By scaly Tritons 7 winding shell,        15
And old sooth-saying Glaucus 8 spell,
By Leucothea’s 9 lovely hands,
And her son that rules the strands,
By Thetis 10 tinsel-slipper’d feet,
And the Songs of Sirens sweet,        20
By dead Parthenope’s 11 dear tomb,
And fair Ligea’s 12 golden comb,
Wherwith she sits on diamond rocks
Sleeking her soft alluring locks,
By all the Nymphs that nightly dance        25
Upon thy streams with wily glance,
Rise, rise, and heave thy rosie head
From thy coral-pav’n bed,
And bridle in thy headlong wave,
Till thou our summons answered have.        30
                    Listen and save.
Sabrina rises, attended by water-Nymphes, and sings

  By the rushy-fringed bank,
Where grows the Willow and the Osier dank,
  My sliding Chariot stayes,
Thick set with Agat, and the azurn sheen        35
Of Turkis blew, and Emrauld green
  That in the channell strayes,
Whilst from off the waters fleet
Thus I set my printless feet
O’re the Cowslips Velvet head,        40
  That bends not as I tread,
Gentle swain at thy request
  I am here.
Spirit.  Goddess dear
We implore thy powerful hand        45
To’ undo the charmèd band
Of true Virgin here distrest,
Through the force, and through the wile
Of unblest inchanter vile.
Sabrina.  Shepherd ’tis my office best        50
To help insnared chastity;
Brightest Lady look on me,
Thus I sprinkle on thy brest
Drops that from my fountain pure,
I have kept of pretious cure,        55
Thrice upon thy fingers tip
Thrice upon thy rubied lip,
Next this marble venom’d seat
Smear’d with gumms of glutenous heat
I touch with chaste palms moist and cold,        60
Now the spell hath lost his hold;
And I must haste ere morning hour
To wait in Amphitrite’s bowr.
Note 1. Amber-dropping: “Hair of amber colour with the waterdrops falling through it.” (Masson). [back]
Note 2. Oceanus: god of the great ocean-stream which Homer supposed to encircle the earth. [back]
Note 3. Neptune: god of the sea after Saturn was overthrown. [back]
Note 4. Tethys: wife of Oceanus. [back]
Note 5. Nereus: father of the Nereids. [back]
Note 6. The Carpathian wizard: Proteus whose home was the island of Carpathus, who had the prophetic and could change his form at will. [back]
Note 7. Tritons: son of Neptune and Amphitrite, was trumpeter of the ocean, who with his sea-shell could stir or quiet the waves. [back]
Note 8. Glaucus: a Bœotian fisherman, who having eaten a magic web, was changed into a sea-god with prophetic powers. [back]
Note 9. Leucothea, was Ino, the daughter of Cadmus, who to escape the furies of her mad husband, Athamas, plunged into the sea with her son Melicertes, and became a sea-goddess. Melicertes became the sea-god Palæmon, and is associated by the Romans as the god of harbours. [back]
Note 10. Thetis: a daughter of Nereus, and mother of Achilles. [back]
Note 11. Parthenope: a sea-nymph, to whom a shrine was erected at Naples, where her dead body was washed ashore. [back]
Note 12. Ligea: one of the Sirens. [back]

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