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By A.E. Dyson

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Later in his life, Milton came to terms with the more specifically Christian view (which Spenser expresses in The Faerie Queene) that Marriage is an estate as honourable as Virginity, and equally rooted in chastity, temperance and Reason. But in his earlier work (and certainly before the 1637 insertion into the Epilogue of Comus) I think that he regarded Virginity as superior VIRTUE UNWAVERING: 'COMUS' 39 to Marriage, both because it is more in keeping with the ultimate Platonic aspiration, and because it is more capable of inspiring moral fervour.

11. 702-5) g6 BETWEEN TWO WORLDS we shall accuse her of being 'priggish' only if we totally ignore the masque's meaning; and we shall accuse her of being 'unpoetic' only if we have a very naive view of the nature and function of dramatic verse. Comus enters now upon his main temptation, which makes explicit the view of reality behind his attitude. He develops the claim that the whole of Nature is on his side and, drawing extensive and powerful analogies, provides a congenial primitivist interpretation of her message to man.

To him that dares Arm his profane tongue with contemptuous words Against the sun-clad power of Chastity, Fain would I something say, yet to what end? Thou hast nor ear nor soul to apprehend The sublime notion and high mystery BETWEEN TWO WORLDS That must be uttered to unfold the sage And serious doctrine of Virginity ... (11. 780-7) In these lines she brings to an exalted climax the poetic power, austere yet resonant, of her own consciousness, and the assertion of two unalterable orders of existence between which no communication can pass.

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