Comus "Budge Doctors Of The Stoic Fur"

John Milton

"Budge Doctors Of The Stoic Fur"

Context: Milton wrote the masque Comus to celebrate the installation of the Earl of Bridgewater as President of Wales; parts were acted by the earl's daughter and two sons. The three endeavor to reach Ludlow Castle, where the masque was presented; they pass at night through a wild wood in which the wicked enchanter, son of Bacchus and Circe and a symbol of license and debauchery, holds sway. Comus meets the earl's daughter, known as the Lady, who has become separated from her brothers; he offers to show her the way through the wood, but instead of doing so, takes her to his palace, the scene of his immoral revels. He threatens to deprive the Lady of physical motion by waving his magic wand, but, as she says, he cannot touch the freedom of her mind, which is dedicated to virtue. She further says that in spite of all of Comus's promises of the good that will befall her if she succumbs to his blandishments, only good people can bestow good on others. To this Comus replies that people are foolish to listen to moralists who preach abstinence. Stoic moralists in doctor's gowns preach things contrary to nature. In the quotation, budge meant a fur used to trim doctoral gowns during the time that Milton was a student at Cambridge; he seems to have had unpleasant memories of his professors. The hair-splitting scholastic philosophers who preached a degraded Stoicism were especially the objects of Milton's scorn.

. . .
And wouldst thou seek again to trap me here
With lickerish baits fit to ensnare a brute?
Were it a draught for Juno when she banquets,
I would not taste thy treasonous offer; none
But such as are good men can give good things,
And that which is not good, is not delicious
To a well-governed and wise appetite.
O foolishness of men! that lend their ears
To those budge doctors of the Stoic fur,
And fetch their precepts from the Cynic tub,
Praising the lean and sallow abstinence.
Wherefore did Nature pour her bounties forth
With such a full and unwithdrawing hand,
Covering the earth with odors, fruits, and flocks,
Thronging the seas with spawn innumerable,
But all to please and sate the curious taste?
. . .