"Airy Tongues That Syllable Men's Names"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: When Comus was presented at Ludlow Castle to celebrate the installation of the Earl of Bridgewater as the President of Wales, the earl's daughter and two sons had leading roles in the production. The three, making their way to Ludlow, are benighted in a forest inhabited by the vile enchanter Comus and his rabble rout of followers. The Lady, becoming separated from her brothers, who left her, too weary to proceed further into the tangled wood, to find fruits and berries to refresh her, hears the wild, tumultuous music that accompanies a dance by Comus's crew. She is filled with misgiving at the sound of the riotous and ill-managed merriment, as it is the kind of music that stirs up the loose, unlettered rustics when they celebrate the harvest season. She reflects that she would be loath to encounter the rudeness and insolence of a band of midnight drinkers, but her situation is such that she is compelled to seek any sort of aid that offers itself. She is afraid that her brothers have wandered so far away that they will not be able to find her again. She makes her way to where the revelry was, but finds no one. She says:

This is the place, as well as I may guess,
Whence even now the tumult of loud mirth
Was rife and perfect in my listening ear,
Yet nought but single darkness do I find.
What might this be? A thousand fantasies
Begin to throng into my memory
Of calling shapes, and beckoning shadows dire,
And airy tongues, that syllable men's names
On sands and shores and desert wildernesses.
These thoughts may startle well, but not astound
The virtuous mind, that ever walks attended
By a strong-siding champion conscience.–
O welcome, pure-eyed faith, white-handed hope,
Thou hovering angel, girt with golden wings,
And thou unblemished form of chastity,
I see ye visibly, and now believe
That he, the supreme good, t'whom all things ill
Are but as slavish officers of vengeance,
Would send a glistering guardian, if need were,
To keep my life and honor unassailed.