1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Comus

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COMUS (from κῶμος, revel, or a company of revellers), in the later mythology of the Greeks, the god of festive mirth. In classic mythology the personification does not exist; but Comus appears in the Εἰκόνες, or Descriptions of Pictures, of Philostratus, a writer of the 3rd century A.D. as a winged youth, slumbering in a standing attitude, his legs crossed, his countenance flushed with wine, his head—which is sunk upon his breast—crowned with dewy flowers, his left hand feebly grasping a hunting spear, his right an inverted torch. Ben Jonson introduces Comus, in his masque entitled Pleasure reconciled to Virtue (1619), as the portly jovial patron of good cheer, “First father of sauce and deviser of jelly.” In the Comus, sive Phagesiposia Cimmeria; Somnium (1608, and at Oxford, 1634), a moral allegory by a Dutch author, Hendrik van der Putten, or Erycius Puteanus. the conception is more nearly akin to Milton’s, and Comus is a being whose enticements are more disguised and delicate than those of Jonson’s deity. But Milton’s Comus is a creation of his own. His story is one

Which never yet was heard in tale or song
From old or modern bard, in hall or bower.”

Born from the loves of Bacchus and Circe, he is “much like his father, but his mother more”—a sorcerer, like her, who gives to travellers a magic draught that changes their human face into the “brutal form of some wild beast,” and, hiding from them their own foul disfigurement, makes them forget all the pure ties of life, “to roll with pleasure in a sensual sty.”