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

SPIRIT.—There is a gentle nymph not far from hence
That with moist curb sways the smooth Severn stream.
Sabrina is her name, a virgin pure;
Whilom she was the daughter of Locrine,
That had the sceptre from his father Brute.        5
She, guiltless damsel, flying the mad pursuit
Of her enragèd stepdame Guendolen,
Commended her fair innocence to the flood
That stayed her flight with his cross-flowing course.
The water-nymphs that in the bottom played        10
Held up their pearlèd wrists, and took her in,
Bearing her straight to aged Nereus’ hall,
Who, piteous of her woes, reared her lank head,
And gave her to his daughters to imbathe
In nectared lavers strewed with asphodel,        15
And through the porch and inlet of each sense
Dropped in ambrosial oils, till she revived,
And underwent a quick immortal change,
Made Goddess of the river: still she retains
Her maiden gentleness, and oft at eve        20
Visits the herds along the twilight meadows,
Helping all urchin blasts, and ill-luck signs
That the shrewd meddling elf delights to make,
Which she with precious vialed liquors heals;
For which the shepherds at their festivals        25
Carol her goodness loud in rustic lays,
And throw sweet garland wreaths into her stream
Of pansies, pinks, and gaudy daffodils.
And, as the old swain said, she can unlock
The clasping charm, and thaw the mumming spell,        30
If she be right invoked in warbled song;
For maidenhood she loves, and will be swift
To aid a virgin, such as was herself,
In hard besetting need; this will I try,
And add the power of some adjuring verse.        35
    Sabrina fair,
        Listen where thou art sitting
    Under the glassy, cool, translucent wave,
        In twisted braids of lilies knitting
    The loose train of thy amber-dropping hair;        40
        Listen, for dear honor’s sake,
        Goddess of the silver lake,
              Listen and save!
    Listen, and appear to us
    In name of great Oceanus;        45
    By th’ earth-shaking Neptune’s mace
    And Tethy’s grave majestic pace;
    By hoary Nereus’ wrinkled look,
    And the Carpathian wizard’s hook;
    By scaly Triton’s winding shell,        50
    And old sooth-saying Glaucus’ spell;
    By Leucothea’s lovely hands,
    And her son that rules the strands;
    By Thetis’ tinsel-slippered feet,
    And the songs of sirens sweet;        55
    By dead Parthenope’s dear tomb,
    And fair Ligea’s golden comb,
    Wherewith she sits on diamond rocks,
    Sleeking her soft alluring locks;
    By all the nymphs that nightly dance        60
    Upon thy streams with wily glance—
    Rise, rise, and heave thy rosy head
    From thy coral-paven bed,
    And bridle in thy headlong wave,
    Till thou our summons answered have.        65
              Listen and save!
SABRINA rises, attended by water-nymphs, and sings.

      SABRINA.—By the rushy-fringèd bank,
    Where grows the willow and the osier dank
          My sliding chariot stays,
    Thick set with agate, and the azure sheen        70
        Of turkois blue, and emerald green,
          That in the channel strays;
        Whilst from off the waters fleet
        Thus I set my printless feet
        O’er the cowslip’s velvet head,        75
          That bends not as I tread;
        Gentle swain, at thy request
          I am here.
      SPIRIT.—Goddess, dear,
      We implore thy powerful hand        80
      To undo the charmèd band
      Of true virgin here distressed,
      Through the force and through the wile
      Of unblest enchanter vile.
        SABRINA.—Shepherd, ’t is my office best        85
      To help ensnarèd chastity:
      Brightest lady, look on me!
      Thus I sprinkle on thy breast
      Drops that from my fountain pure
      I have kept of precious cure,        90
      Thrice upon thy finger’s tip,
      Thrice upon thy rubied lip;
      Next this marble venomed seat,
      Smeared with gums of glutinous heat,
      I touch with chaste palms moist and cold:        95
      Now the spell hath lost his hold;
      And I must haste ere morning hour
      To wait in Amphitritè’s bower.
SABRINA descends, and the LADY rises out of her seat.

          SPIRIT.—Virgin, daughter of Locrine,
        Sprung from old Anchises’ line,        100
          May thy brimmèd waves for this
          Their full tribute never miss
        From a thousand petty rills,
        That tumble down the snowy hills;
        Summer drought, or singèd air,        105
        Never scorch thy tresses fair,
        Nor wet October’s torrent flood
        Thy molten crystal fill with mud;
        May thy billows roll ashore
        The beryl, and the golden ore;        110
        May thy lofty head be crowned
        With many a tower and terrace round,
        And here and there thy banks upon
        With groves of myrrh and cinnamon.
          Come, lady! while heaven lends us grace,        115
        Let us fly this cursèd place,
        Lest the sorcerer us entice
        With some other new device.
        Not a waste or needless sound,
        Till we come to holier ground;        120
        I shall be your faithful guide
        Through this gloomy covert wide;
        And not many furlongs thence
        Is your father’s residence,
        Where this night are met in state        125
        Many a friend to gratulate
        His wished presence, and beside
        All the swains that near abide,
        With jigs and rural dance resort;
        We shall catch them at their sport,        130
        And our sudden coming there
        Will double all their mirth and cheer;
        Come, let us haste, the stars grow high,
        But night sits monarch yet in the mid sky.

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