Context: Milton wrote this masque to celebrate the installation of the Earl of Bridgewater as President of Wales. The parts were taken by Bridgewater's three children, and the plot deals with their efforts to pass through a "drear wood" to reach their father's castle of Ludlow. The Lady (Lady Alice Egerton, the Earl's daughter) encounters the wicked enchanter Comus, son of Bacchus and Ceres, who tries to seduce her from the path of virtue. He deceives her into accompanying him to his palace where she is seated in an enchanted chair from which she cannot rise. Her brothers, led by a good attendant spirit who takes the name and form of Thyrsis, a follower of the house to which the Lady and her brothers belong, attempt to liberate her by breaking Comus's magic glass, but Comus escapes with his enchanting rod, without which the Lady cannot be freed. The only hope, according to the attendant spirit, is to invoke the aid of the nymph Sabrina, the goddess of the River Severn. Sabrina, who loves maidenhood, will be swift to aid a virgin; the attendant spirit thereupon sings a charming invocation to the nymph, of which this is the first stanza:
Sabrina fair,Listen where thou are sittingUnder the glassy, cool, translucent wave,In twisted braids of lilies knittingThe loose train of thy amber-dropping hair;Listen for dear honor's sake,Goddess of the silver lake,Listen and save.