September 25, 2010

Arthur Rackham’s Comus

Comus is a 17th Century masque written by John Milton, which I will confess right now to not having read. But according to someone at Escape Into Life:

"The masque is a semi-allegorical portrayal of sin, or temptation, in the character of Comus, and chastity or temperance, in the character of Lady. Despite Comus’s attempts to trick Lady into drinking a magical cup (representing sexual pleasure), Lady refuses to give in to the sinful Comus. Comus challenges Lady in various other ways, such as arguing that desire is natural to a human being, but Lady will not be seduced. The rest of the masque involves the Attendant Spirit, an angelic figure, who comes to rescue her."

If you really want to read the text, you can do so here, or you can read more about it on Wikipedia. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll get the general gist of the story and then lose yourself in these amazing illustrations by Arthur Rackham.  To see the entire collection, visit, and if you really like them you can buy prints here. 










One of the things I like about Rackham’s work is that his goblins and ogres are strangely reminiscent to me of the numerous satyrs scrawled by my favourite artist and all-time hero Austin Osman Spare, whose work I will post about on here one day when I can be bothered scanning all my books. I say strangely because from what I’ve read the two men could not have been more different in their characters and ideologies. There will be more of Rackham’s work to come on here too.

Incidentally, there is also a superb psychedelic folk band from the 70’s named Comus, who have recently reformed and played a few live shows at festivals like Roadburn. They sound a bit like the deranged love-child of Amon Duul II and The Residents, as you’ll find if you play the clip below.

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