Home  »  The Oxford Book of English Verse  »  310. L’Allegro

Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.

John Milton. 1608–1674

310. L’Allegro

HENCE loathèd Melancholy 
  Of Cerberus and blackest midnight born, 
In Stygian Cave forlorn 
  ‘Mongst horrid shapes, and shreiks, and sights unholy. 
Find out som uncouth cell,         5
  Where brooding darknes 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 ever dwell.  10
But com thou Goddes fair and free, 
In Heav’n ycleap’d Euphrosyne, 
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 cheek, 
And love to live in dimple sleek;  30
Sport that wrincled Care derides, 
And Laughter holding both his sides. 
Com, 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. 
While the Cock with lively din, 
Scatters the rear of darknes 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,  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,  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 
Under the Hawthorn in the dale. 
Streit mine eye hath caught new pleasures 
Whilst the Lantskip round it measures,  70
Russet Lawns, and Fallows Gray, 
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 it sees 
Boosom’d high in tufted Trees, 
Wher perhaps som beauty lies, 
The Cynosure of neighbouring eyes.  80
Hard by, a Cottage chimney smokes, 
From betwixt two agèd 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 the 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, 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 be on, 
Or sweetest Shakespear 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.