John Milton

Samson Agonistes

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John Milton (1608-1674)

Samson Agonistes

Tragedy, as it was anciently composed, hath been ever held the gravest, moralest, and most profitable of all other Poems: therefore said by Aristotle to be of power by raising pity and fear, or terror, to purge the mind of those and such like passions, that is, to temper and reduce them to just measure with a kind of delight, stirred up by reading or seeing those passions well imitated. Nor is Nature wanting in her own effects to make good his assertion: for so in Physic things of melancholic hue and quality are used against melancholy, sour against sour, salt to remove salt humors. Hence Philosophers and other gravest Writers, as Cicero, Plutarch and others, frequently cite out of Tragic Poets, both to adorn and illustrate thir discourse. The Apostle Paul himself thought it not unworthy to insert a verse of Euripides into the Text of Holy Scripture (1 Cor. 15:33), and Paræus, commenting on the Revelation, divides the whole Book as a Tragedy, into Acts distinguished each by a Chorus of Heavenly Harpings and Song between. Heretofore Men in highest dignity have laboured not a little to be thought able to compose a Tragedy. Of that honour Dionysius the Elder was no less ambitious, then before of his attaining to the Tyranny. Augustus Cæsar also had begun his Ajax, but unable to please his own judgment with what he had begun, left it unfinished. Seneca the Philosopher is by some thought the Author of those Tragedies (at least the best of them) that go under that name. Gregory Nazianzen, a Father of the Church, thought it not unbeseeming the sanctity of his person to write a Tragedy which he entitled, Christ Suffering. This is mentioned to vindicate Tragedy from the small esteem, or rather infamy, which in the account of many it undergoes at this day with other common Interludes, happening through the Poet’s error of intermixing Comic stuff with Tragic sadness and gravity, or introducing trivial and vulgar persons, which by all judicious hath been counted absurd, and brought in without discretion, corruptly to gratify the people. And though ancient Tragedy use no Prologue, yet using sometimes, in case of self-defense, or explanation, that which Martial calls an Epistle; in behalf of this Tragedy coming forth after the ancient manner, much different from what among us passes for best, thus much beforehand may be Epistled; that Chorus is here introduced after the Greek manner, not ancient only but modern, and still in use among the Italians. In the modeling therefore of this Poem with good reason, the Ancients and Italians are rather followed, as of much more authority and fame. The measure of Verse used in the Chorus is of all sorts, called by the Greeks Monostrophic, or rather Apolelymenon, without regard had to Strophe, Antistrophe or Epod, which were a kind of Stanzas framed only for the Music, then used with the Chorus that sung; not essential to the Poem, and therefore not material; or being divided into Stanzas or Pauses they may be called Allæostropha. Division into Act and Scene referring chiefly to the Stage (to which this work never was intended) is here omitted.

It suffices if the whole Drama be found not produced beyond the fifth Act, of the style and uniformity, and that commonly called the Plot, whether intricate or explicit, which is nothing indeed but such economy, or disposition of the fable as may stand best with verisimilitude and decorum; they only will best judge who are not unacquainted with Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, the three Tragic Poets unequalled yet by any, and the best rule to all who endeavour to write Tragedy. The circumscription of time wherein the whole Drama begins and ends, is according to ancient rule, and best example, within the space of twenty-four hours.


Samson made Captive, Blind, and now in the Prison at Gaza, there to labor as in a common workhouse, on a Festival day, in the general cessation from labor, comes forth into the open Air, to a place nigh, somewhat retired there to sit a while and bemoan his condition. Where he happens at length to be visited by certain friends and equals of his tribe, which make the Chorus, who seek to comfort him what they can; then by his old Father Manoa, who endeavors the like, and withal tells him his purpose to procure his liberty by ransom; lastly, that this Feast was proclaimed by the Philistines as a day of Thanksgiving for thir deliverance from the hands of Samson, which yet more troubles him. Manoa then departs to prosecute his endeavour with the Philistine Lords for Samson’s redemption; who in the meanwhile is visited by other persons; and lastly by a public Officer to require coming to the Feast before the Lords and People, to play or show his strength in thir presence; he at first refuses, dismissing the public officer with absolute denial to come; at length persuaded inwardly that this was from God, he yields to go along with him, who came now the second time with great threatnings to fetch him; the Chorus yet remaining on the place, Manoa returns full of joyful hope, to procure ere long his Son’s deliverance: in the midst of which discourse a Hebrew comes in haste, confusedly at first; and afterward more distinctly relating the Catastrophe, what Samson had done to the Philistines, and by accident to himself; wherewith the Tragedy ends.


MANOAH, the father of Samson
DELILAH, his wife
Public Officer
CHORUS of Danites

The Scene before the Prison in Gaza.

SAMSON. A little onward lend thy guiding hand
To these dark steps, a little further on;
For yonder bank hath choice of Sun or shade.
There I am wont to sit, when any chance
Relieves me from my task of servile toil,
Daily in the common Prison else enjoined me,
Where I, a Prisoner chained, scarce freely draw
The air imprisoned also, close and damp,
Unwholsome draught: but here I feel amends,
The breath of Heav’n fresh-blowing, pure and sweet,
With day-spring born; here leave me to respire.
This day a solemn Feast the people hold
To Dagon thir Sea-Idol, and forbid
Laborious works; unwillingly this rest
Thir Superstition yields me; hence with leave
Retiring from the popular noise, I seek
This unfrequented place to find some ease,
Ease to the body some, none to the mind
From restless thoughts, that like a deadly swarm
Of Hornets armed, no sooner found alone,
But rush upon me thronging, and present
Times past, what once I was, and what am now.
Oh, wherefore was my birth from Heaven foretold
Twice by an Angel, who at last in sight
Of both my Parents all in flames ascended
From off the Altar, where an Off’ring burned,
As in a fiery column charioting
His Godlike presence, and from some great act
Or benefit revealed to Abraham’s race?
Why was my breeding ordered and prescribed
As of a person separate to God,
Designed for great exploits, if I must die
Betrayed, Captived, and both my Eyes put out,
Made of my Enemies the scorn and gaze,
To grind in Brazen Fetters under task
With this Heav’n-gifted strength? O glorious strength
Put to the labour of a Beast, debased
Lower then bondslave! Promise was that I
Should Israel from Philistine yoke deliver;
Ask for this great Deliverer now, and find him
Eyeless in Gaza at the Mill with slaves,
Himself in bonds under Philistine yoke.
Yet stay, let me not rashly call in doubt
Divine Prediction; what if all foretold
Had been fulfilled but through mine own default,
Whom have I to complain of but myself?
Who this high gift of strength committed to me,
In what part lodged, how easily bereft me,
Under the Seal of silence could not keep,
But weakly to a woman must reveal it,
O’ercome with importunity and tears.
O impotence of mind, in body strong!
But what is strength without a double share
Of wisdom, vast, unwieldy, burdensome,
Proudly secure, yet liable to fall
By weakest suttleties, not made to rule,
But to subserve where wisdom bears command?
God, when he gave me strength, to show withal
How slight the gift was, hung it in my Hair.
But peace, I must not quarrel with the will
Of highest dispensation, which herein
Happ’ly had ends above my reach to know:
Suffices that to me strength is my bane,
And proves the source of all my miseries;
So many, and so huge, that each apart
Would ask a life to wail, but chief of all,
O loss of sight, of thee I most complain!
Blind among enemies, O worse than chains,
Dungeon, or beggary, or decrepit age!
Light the prime work of God to me is extinct,
And all her various objects of delight
Annulled, which might in part my grief have eased,
Inferior to the vilest now become
Of man or worm; the vilest here excel me,
They creep, yet see, I dark in light exposed
To daily fraud, contempt, abuse and wrong,
Within doors, or without, still as a fool,
In power of others, never in my own;
Scarce half I seem to live, dead more than half.
O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon,
Irrecoverably dark, total Eclipse
Without all hope of day!
O first-created Beam, and thou great Word,
“Let there be light,” and light was over all;
Why am I thus bereaved thy prime decree?
The Sun to me is dark
And silent as the Moon,
When she deserts the night
Hid in her vacant interlunar cave.
Since light so necessary is to life,
And almost life itself, if it be true
That light is in the Soul,
She all in every part; why was the sight
To such a tender ball as the eye confined?
So obvious and so easy to be quenched,
And not as feeling through all parts diffused,
That she might look at will through every pore?
Then had I not been thus exiled from light;
As in the land of darkness yet in light,
To live a life half dead, a living death,
And buried; but O yet more miserable!
Myself my Sepulcher, a moving Grave,
Buried, yet not exempt
By privilege of death and burial
From worst of other evils, pains and wrongs,
But made hereby obnoxious more
To all the miseries of life,
Life in captivity
Among inhuman foes.
But who are these? for with joint pace I hear
The tread of many feet steering this way;
Perhaps my enemies who come to stare
At my affliction, and perhaps to insult,
Their daily practice to afflict me more.

CHORUS. This, this is he; softly a while,
Let us not break in upon him;
O change beyond report, thought, or belief!
See how he lies at random, carelessly diffused,
With languished head unpropped,
As one past hope, abandoned
And by himself given over;
In slavish habit, ill-fitted weeds
O’erworn and soiled;
Or do my eyes misrepresent? Can this be he,
That Heroic, that Renowned,
Irresistible Samson? whom unarmed
No strength of man, or fiercest wild beast could withstand;
Who tore the Lion, as the Lion tears the Kid,
Ran on embattled Armies clad in Iron,
And weaponless himself,
Made Arms ridiculous, useless the forgery
Of brazen shield and spear, the hammered Cuirass,
Chalybean tempered steel, and frock of mail
Adamantean Proof;
But safest he who stood aloof,
When insupportably his foot advanced,
In scorn of thir proud arms and warlike tools,
Spurned them to death by Troops. The bold Ashkelonite
Fled from his Lion ramp, old Warriors turned
Thir plated backs under his heel;
Or grov’ling soiled their crested helmets in the dust.
Then with what trivial weapon came to Hand,
The Jaw of a dead Ass, his sword of bone,
A thousand foreskins fell, the flower of Palestine
In Ramath-lechi famous to this day:
Then by main force pulled up, and on his shoulders bore
The Gates of Azza, Post, and massy Bar
Up to the Hill by Hebron, seat of Giants old,
No journey of a Sabbath day, and loaded so;
Like whom the Gentiles feign to bear up Heav’n.
Which shall I first bewail,
Thy Bondage or lost Sight,
Prison within Prison
Inseparably dark?
Thou art become (O worst imprisonment!)
The Dungeon of thy self; thy Soul
(Which Men enjoying sight oft without cause complain)
Imprisoned now indeed,
In real darkness of the body dwells,
Shut up from outward light
To incorporate with gloomy night;
For inward light alas
Puts forth no visual beam.
O mirror of our fickle state,
Since man on earth unparalleled!
The rarer thy example stands,
By how much from the top of wondrous glory,
Strongest of mortal men,
To lowest pitch of abject fortune thou art fall’n.
For him I reckon not in high estate
Whom long descent of birth
Or the sphere of fortune raises;
But thee whose strength, while virtue was her mate
Might have subdued the Earth,
Universally crowned with highest praises.

SAMSON. I hear the sound of words, their sense the air
Dissolves unjointed ere it reach my ear.

CHORUS. He speaks, let us draw nigh. Matchless in might,
The glory late of Israel, now the grief;
We come thy friends and neighbors not unknown
From Eshtaol and Zora’s fruitful Vale
To visit or bewail thee, or if better,
Counsel or Consolation we may bring,
Salve to thy Sores, apt words have power to ’suage
The tumors of a troubled mind,
And are as Balm to festered wounds.

SAMSON. Your coming, Friends, revives me, for I learn
Now of my own experience, not by talk,
How counterfeit a coin they are who friends
Bear in their Superscription (of the most
I would be understood) in prosperous days
They swarm, but in adverse withdraw their head
Not to be found, though sought. We see, O friends,
How many evils have enclosed me round;
Yet that which was the worst now least afflicts me,
Blindness, for had I sight, confused with shame,
How could I once look up, or heave the head,
Who like a foolish Pilot have shipwrecked
My Vessel trusted to me from above,
Gloriously rigged; and for a word, a tear,
Fool, have divulged the secret gift of God
To a deceitful Woman: tell me, Friends,
Am I not sung and proverbed for a Fool
In every street, do they not say, “How well
Are come upon him his deserts”? yet why?
Immeasurable strength they might behold
In me, of wisdom nothing more than mean;
This with the other should, at least, have paired,
These two proportioned ill drove me transverse.

CHORUS. Tax not divine disposal; wisest Men
Have erred, and by bad Women been deceived,
And shall again, pretend they ne’er so wise.
Deject not then so overmuch thyself,
Who hast of sorrow thy full load besides;
Yet truth to say, I oft have heard men wonder
Why thou should’st wed Philistine women rather
Than of thine own Tribe fairer, or as fair,
At least of thy own Nation, and as noble.

SAMSON. The first I saw at Timnah, and she pleased
Me, not my Parents, that I sought to wed,
The daughter of an Infidel: they knew not
That what I motioned was of God; I knew
From intimate impulse, and therefore urged
The Marriage on; that by occasion hence
I might begin Israel’s Deliverance,
The work to which I was divinely call’d;
She proving false, the next I took to Wife
(O that I never had! fond wish too late)
Was in the Vale of Sorek, Delilah,
That specious Monster, my accomplished snare.
I thought it lawful from my former act,
And the same end; still watching to oppress
Israel’s oppressors: of what now I suffer
She was not the prime cause, but I myself,
Who, vanquished with a peal of words (O weakness!),
Gave up my fort of silence to a Woman.

CHORUS. In seeking just occasion to provoke
The Philistine, thy Country’s Enemy,
Thou never wast remiss, I hear thee witness:
Yet Israel still serves with all his Sons.

SAMSON. That fault I take not on me, but transfer
On Israel’s Governors, and Heads of Tribes,
Who, seeing those great acts which God had done
Singly by me against their Conquerours,
Acknowledged not, or not at all considered
Deliverance offered: I on the other side
Used no ambition to commend my deeds;
The deeds themselves, though mute, spoke loud the doer;
But they persisted deaf, and would not seem
To count them things worth notice, till at length
Thir Lords the Philistines with gathered powers
Entered Judea seeking me, who then
Safe to the rock of Etham was retired,
Not flying, but forecasting in what place
To set upon them, what advantaged best.
Meanwhile, the men of Judah, to prevent
The harass of their Land, beset me round;
I willingly on some conditions came
Into their hands, and they as gladly yield me
To the uncircumcised a welcome prey,
Bound with two cords; but cords to me were threads
Touched with the flame: on their whole Host I flew
Unarmed, and with a trivial weapon felled
Thir choicest youth; they only lived who fled.
Had Judah that day joined, or one whole Tribe,
They had by this possessed the Towers of Gath,
And lorded over them whom now they serve;
But what more oft in Nations grown corrupt,
And by their vices brought to servitude,
Than to love Bondage more then Liberty,
Bondage with ease than strenuous liberty;
And to despise, or envy, or suspect
Whom God hath of his special favor raised
As their Deliverer; if he aught begin,
How frequent to desert him, and at last
To heap ingratitude on worthiest deeds?

CHORUS. Thy words to my remembrance bring
How Succoth and the Fort of Penuel
Thir great Deliverer contemned,
The matchless Gideon in pursuit
Of Midian and her vanquished Kings;
And how ungrateful Ephraim
Not worse than by his shield and spear
Had dealt with Jephthah, who by argument
Defended Israel from the Ammonite,
Had not his prowess quelled their pride
In that sore battle when so many died
Without Reprieve adjudged to death,
For want of well pronouncing Shibboleth.

SAMSON. Of such examples add me to the roll,
Me easily indeed mine may neglect,
But God’s proposed deliverance not so.

CHORUS. Just are the ways of God,
And justifiable to Men;
Unless there be who think not God at all.
If any be, they walk obscure;
For of such Doctrine never was there School,
But the heart of the Fool,
And no man therein Doctor but himself.
Yet more there be who doubt his ways not just,
As to his own edicts, found contradicting,
Then give the reins to wand’ring thought,
Regardless of his glory’s diminution;
Till by their own perplexities involved
They ravel more, still less resolved,
But never find self-satisfying solution.
As if they would confine the interminable,
And tie him to his own prescript,
Who made our Laws to bind us, not himself,
And hath full right to exempt
Whom so it pleases him by choice
From National obstriction, without taint
Of sin, or legal debt;
For with his own Laws he can best dispense.
He would not else who never wanted means,
Nor in respect of the enemy just cause
To set his people free,
Have prompted this Heroic Nazarite,
Against his vow of strictest purity,
To seek in marriage that fallacious Bride,
Unclean, unchaste.
Down Reason then, at least vain reasonings down,
Though Reason here aver
That moral verdict quits her of unclean:
Unchaste was subsequent, her stain not his.
But see, here comes thy reverend Sire
With careful step, Locks white as down,
Old Manoah: advise
Forthwith how thou ought’st to receive him.

SAMSON. Ay me, another inward grief awaked
With mention of that name renews the assault.

MANOAH. Brethren and men of Dan, for such ye seem,
Though in this uncouth place; if old respect,
As I suppose, towards your once-gloried friend,
My Son now Captive, hither hath informed
Your younger feet, while mine cast back with age
Came lagging after; say if he be here.

CHORUS. As signal now in low dejected state,
As erst in highest; behold him where be lies.

MANOAH. O miserable change! is this the man,
That invincible Samson, far renowned,
The dread of Israel’s foes, who with a strength
Equivalent to Angels’ walked their streets,
None offering fight? who single combatant
Dueled their Armies ranked in proud array,
Himself an Army, now unequal match
To save himself against a coward armed
At one spear’s length? O ever-failing trust
In mortal strength! and oh, what not in man
Deceivable and vain! Nay, what thing good
Prayed for, but often proves our woe, our bane?
I prayed for Children, and thought barrenness
In wedlock a reproach; I gained a Son,
And such a Son as all Men hailed me happy;
Who would be now a Father in my stead?
O wherefore did God grant me my request,
And as a blessing with such pomp adorned?
Why are his gifts desirable, to tempt
Our earnest Prayers, then giv’n with solemn hand
As Graces, draw a Scorpion’s tail behind?
For this did the Angel twice descend? for this
Ordained thy nurture holy, as of a Plant;
Select, and Sacred, Glorious for a while,
The miracle of men: then in an hour
Ensnared, assaulted, overcome, led bound,
Thy Foes’ derision, Captive, Poor, and Blind
Into a Dungeon thrust, to work with Slaves?
Alas, methinks whom God hath chosen once
To worthiest deeds, if he through frailty err,
He should not so o’erwhelm, and as a thrall
Subject him to so foul indignities,
Be it but for honor’s sake of former deeds.

SAMSON. Appoint not heavenly disposition, Father,
Nothing of all these evils hath befall’n me
But justly; I myself have brought them on,
Sole Author I, sole cause: if aught seem vile,
As vile hath been my folly, who have profaned
The mystery of God giv’n me under pledge
Of vow, and have betrayed it to a woman,
A Canaanite, my faithless enemy.
This well I knew, nor was at all surprised,
But warned by oft experience: did not she
Of Timnah first betray me, and reveal
The secret wrested from me in her height
Of Nuptial Love professed, carrying it straight
To them who had corrupted her, my Spies
And Rivals? In this other was there found
More Faith? who also in her prime of love,
Spousal embraces, vitiated with Gold,
Though offered only, by the sent conceived
Her spurious first-born: Treason against me?
Thrice she assayed with flattering prayers and sighs,
And amorous reproaches to win from me
My capital secret, in what part my strength
Lay stored, in what part summed, that she might know:
Thrice I deluded her, and turned to sport
Her importunity, each time perceiving
How openly, and with what impudence
She purposed to betray me, and (which was worse
Than undissembled hate) with what contempt
She sought to make me Traitor to myself;
Yet the fourth time, when must’ring all her wiles,
With blandished parleys, feminine assaults,
Tongue-batteries, she surceased not day nor night
To storm me overwatched and wearied out.
At times when men seek most repose and rest,
I yielded, and unlocked her all my heart,
Who with a grain of manhood well resolved
Might easily have shook off all her snares:
But foul effeminacy held me yoked
Her Bond-slave; O indignity, O blot
To Honor and Religion! servile mind
Rewarded well with servile punishment!
The base degree to which I now am fall’n,
These rags, this grinding, is not yet so base
As was my former servitude, ignoble,
Unmanly, ignominious, infamous,
True slavery, and that blindness worse then this,
That saw not how degenerately I served.

MANOAH. I cannot praise thy Marriage choices, Son,
Rather approved them not; but thou didst plead
Divine impulsion prompting how thou might’st
Find some occasion to infest our Foes.
I state not that; this I am sure; our Foes
Found soon occasion thereby to make thee
Their Captive, and their triumph; thou the sooner
Temptation found’st, or overpotent charms
To violate the sacred trust of silence
Deposited within thee; which to have kept
Tacit, was in thy power; true; and thou hear’st
Enough, and more the burden of that fault;
Bitterly hast thou paid, and still art paying
That rigid score. A worse thing yet remains,
This day the Philistines a popular Feast
Here celebrate in Gaza, and proclaim
Great Pomp, and Sacrifice, and Praises loud
To Dagon, as their God who hath delivered
Thee Samson bound and blind into their hands,
Them out of thine, who slew’st them many a slain.
So Dagon shall be magnified, and God,
Besides whom is no God, compared with Idols,
Disglorified, blasphemed, and had in scorn
By the Idolatrous rout amidst their wine;
Which to have come to pass by means of thee,
Samson, of all thy sufferings think the heaviest,
Of all reproach the most with shame that ever
Could have befall’n thee and thy Father’s house.

SAMSON. Father, I do acknowledge and confess
That I this honor, I this pomp have brought
To Dagon, and advanced his praises high
Among the Heathen round; to God have brought
Dishonor, obloquy, and oped the mouths
Of Idolists, and Atheists; have brought scandal
To Israel, diffidence of God, and doubt
In feeble hearts, propense enough before
To waver, or fall off and join with Idols:
Which is my chief affliction, shame and sorrow,
The anguish of my Soul, that suffers not
Mine eye to harbor sleep, or thoughts to rest.
This only hope relieves me, that the strife
With me hath end; all the contest is now
’Twixt God and Dagon; Dagon hath presumed,
Me overthrown, to enter lists with God,
His Deity comparing and preferring
Before the God of Abraham. He, be sure,
Will not connive, or linger, thus provoked,
But will arise and his great name assert:
Dagon must stoop, and shall ere long receive
Such a discomfit, as shall quite despoil him
Of all these boasted Trophies won on me,
And with confusion blank his Worshippers.

MANOAH. With cause this hope relieves thee, and these words
I as a Prophecy receive: for God,
Nothing more certain, will not long defer
To vindicate the glory of his name
Against all competition, nor will long
Endure it, doubtful whether God be Lord,
Or Dagon. But for thee what shall be done?
Thou must not in the meanwhile here forgot
Lie in this miserable loathsome plight
Neglected. I already have made way
To some Philistine Lords, with whom to treat
About thy ransom: well they may by this
Have satisfied their utmost of revenge
By pains and slaveries, worse than death inflicted
On thee, who now no more canst do them harm.

SAMSON. Spare that proposal, Father, spare the trouble
Of that solicitation; let me here,
As I deserve, pay on my punishment;
And expiate, if possible, my crime,
Shameful garrulity. To have revealed
Secrets of men, the secrets of a friend,
How heinous had the fact been, how deserving
Contempt, and scorn of all, to be excluded
All friendship, and avoided as a blab,
The mark of fool set on his front?
But I God’s counsel have not kept, his holy secret
Presumptuously have published, impiously,
Weakly at least, and shamefully: A sin
That Gentiles in their Parables condemn
To their abyss and horrid pains confined.

MANOAH. Be penitent and for thy fault contrite,
But act not in thy own affliction, Son,
Repent the sin, but if the punishment
Thou canst avoid, self-preservation bids;
Or the execution leave to high disposal,
And let another hand, not thine, exact
Thy penal forfeit from thyself; perhaps
God will relent, and quit thee all his debt;
Who evermore approves and more accepts
(Best pleased with humble and filial submission)
Him who imploring mercy sues for life,
Then who self-rigorous chooses death as due;
Which argues overjust, and self-displeased
For self-offense, more than for God offended.
Reject not then what offered means, who knows
But God hath set before us, to return thee
Home to thy country and his sacred house,
Where thou mayst bring thy off’rings, to avert
His further ire, with prayers and vows renewed.

SAMSON. His pardon I implore; but as for life,
To what end should I seek it? when in strength
All mortals I excelled, and great in hopes
With youthful courage and magnanimous thoughts
Of birth from Heav’n foretold and high exploits,
Full of divine instinct, after some proof
Of acts indeed heroic, far beyond
The Sons of Anak, famous now and blazed,
Fearless of danger, like a petty God
I walked about admired of all and dreaded
On hostile ground, none daring my affront.
Then, swoll’n with pride, into the snare I fell
Of fair fallacious looks, venereal trains,
Soft’n’d with pleasure and voluptuous life;
At length to lay my head and hallowed pledge
Of all my strength in the lascivious lap
Of a deceitful Concubine who shore me
Like a tame Wether, all my precious fleece,
Then turned me out ridiculous, despoiled,
Shav’n, and disarmed among my enemies.

CHORUS. Desire of wine and all delicious drinks,
Which many a famous Warrior overturns,
Thou couldst repress, nor did the dancing Ruby
Sparkling; outpow’red, the flavor, or the smell,
Or taste that cheers the heart of Gods and men,
Allure thee from the cool Crystalline stream.

SAMSON. Where ever fountain or fresh current flowed
Against the Eastern ray, translucent, pure,
With touch ætherial of Heav’n’s fiery rod
I drank, from the clear milky juice allaying
Thirst, and refreshed; nor envied them the grape
Whose heads that turbulent liquor fills with fumes.

CHORUS. O madness, to think use of strongest wines
And strongest drinks our chief support of health,
When God with these forbidden made choice to rear
His mighty Champion, strong above compare,
Whose drink was only from the liquid brook.

SAMSON. But what availed this temperance, not complete
Against another object more enticing?
What boots it at one gate to make defense,
And at another to let in the foe
Effeminatly vanquished? by which means,
Now blind, disheartened, shamed, dishonored, quelled,
To what can I be useful, wherein serve
My Nation, and the work from Heav’n imposed,
But to sit idle on the household hearth,
A burdenous drone; to visitants a gaze,
Or pitied object, these redundant locks
Robustious to no purpose clust’ring down,
Vain monument of strength; till length of years
And sedentary numbness craze my limbs
To a contemptible old age obscure.
Here rather let me drudge and earn my bread,
Till vermin or the draff of servile food
Consume me, and oft-invocated death
Hasten the welcome end of all my pains.

MANOAH. Wilt thou then serve the Philistines with that gift
Which was expressly giv’n thee to annoy them?
Better at home lie bed-rid, not only idle,
Inglorious, unemployed, with age out-worn.
But God who caused a fountain at thy prayer
From the dry ground to spring, thy thirst to allay
After the brunt of battle, can as easy
Cause light again within thy eyes to spring,
Wherewith to serve him better then thou hast;
And I persuade me so; why else this strength
Miraculous yet remaining in those locks?
His might continues in thee not for naught,
Nor shall his wondrous gifts be frustrate thus.

SAMSON. All otherwise to me my thoughts portend,
That these dark orbs no more shall treat with light,
Nor the other light of life continue long,
But yield to double darkness nigh at hand:
So much I feel my genial spirits droop,
My hopes all flat, nature within me seems
In all her functions weary of herself;
My race of glory run, and race of shame,
And I shall shortly be with them that rest.

MANOAH. Believe not these suggestions which proceed
From anguish of the mind and humors black,
That mingle with thy fancy. I however
Must not omit a Father’s timely care
To prosecute the means of thy deliverance
By ransom or how else: meanwhile be calm,
And healing words from these thy friends admit.

SAMSON. O that torment should not be confined
To the body’s wounds and sores
With maladies innumerable
In heart, head, brest, and reins;
But must secret passage find
To the inmost mind,
There exercise all his fierce accidents,
And on her purest spirits prey,
As on entrails, joints, and limbs,
With answerable pains, but more intense,
’Though void of corporal sense.
My griefs not only pain me
As a ling’ring disease,
But finding no redress, ferment and rage,
Nor less then wounds immedicable
Rankle, and fester, and gangrene,
To black mortification.
Thoughts my Tormenters armed with deadly stings
Mangle my apprehensive tenderest parts,
Exasperate, exulcerate, and raise
Dire inflammation which no cooling herb
Or medicinal liquor can assuage,
Nor breath of Vernal Air from snowy Alp.
Sleep hath forsook and giv’n me o’er
To death’s benumbing Opium as my only cure.
Thence faintings, swoonings of despair,
And sense of Heav’n’s desertion.
I was his nurseling once and choice delight,
His destined from the womb,
Promised by Heavenly message twice descending.
Under his special eye
Abstemious I grew up and thrived amain;
He led me on to mightiest deeds
Above the nerve of mortal arm
Against the uncircumcised, our enemies;
But now hath cast me off as never known,
And to those cruel enemies,
Whom I by his appointment had provoked,
Left me all helpless with the irreparable loss
Of sight, reserved alive to be repeated
The subject of their cruelty, or scorn.
Nor am I in the list of them that hope;
Hopeless are all my evils, all remediless;
This one prayer yet remains, might I be heard,
No long petition, speedy death,
The close of all my miseries, and the balm.

CHORUS. Many are the sayings of the wise
In ancient and in modern books enrolled
Extolling Patience as the truest fortitude;
And to the bearing well of all calamities,
All chances incident to man’s frail life
Consolatories writ
With studied argument, and much persuasion sought
Lenient of grief and anxious thought,
But with the afflicted in his pangs their sound
Little prevails, or rather seems a tune,
Harsh, and of dissonant mood from his complaint,
Unless he feel within
Some source of consolation from above;
Secret refreshings, that repair his strength,
And fainting spirits uphold.
God of our Fathers, what is man!
That thou towards him with hand so various,
Or might I say contrarious,
Temper’st thy providence through his short course,
Not evenly, as thou rul’st
The Angelic orders and inferior creatures mute,
Irrational and brute.
Nor do I name of men the common rout,
That wand’ring loose about
Grow up and perish, as the summer fly,
Heads without name no more remembered,
But such as thou hast solemnly elected,
With gifts and graces eminently adorned
To some great work, thy glory,
And people’s safety, which in part they effect:
Yet toward these thus dignified, thou oft
Amidst their height of noon,
Changest thy countenance, and thy hand with no regard
Of highest favors past
From thee on them, or them to thee of service,
Nor only dost degrade them, or remit
To life obscured, which were a fair dismission,
But throw’st them lower then thou didst exalt them high,
Unseemly falls in human eye,
Too grievous for the trespass or omission,
Oft leav’st them to the hostile sword
Of Heathen and profane, their carcases
To dogs and fowls a prey, or else captived:
Or to the unjust tribunals, under change of times,
And condemnation of the ungrateful multitude.
If these they ’scape, perhaps in poverty
With sickness and disease thou bow’st them down,
Painful diseases and deformed,
In crude old age;
Though not disordinate, yet causeless suff’ring
The punishment of dissolute days, in fine,
Just or unjust, alike seem miserable,
For oft alike, both come to evil end.
So deal not with this once thy glorious Champion,
The Image of thy strength, and mighty minister.
What do I beg? how hast thou dealt already?
Behold him in this state calamitous, and turn
His labours, for thou canst, to peaceful end.
But who is this, what thing of Sea or Land?
Female of sex it seems,
That so bedecked, ornate, and gay,
Comes this way sailing
Like a stately Ship
Of Tarsus, bound for the Isles
Of Javan or Gadier
With all her bravery on, and tackle trim,
Sails filled, and streamers waving,
Courted by all the winds that hold them play,
An Amber sent of odorous perfume
Her harbinger, a damsel train behind;
Some rich Philistine Matron she may seem,
And now at nearer view, no other certain
Than Delilah thy wife.

SAMSON. My Wife, my Trait’ress, let her not come near me.

CHORUS. Yet on she moves, now stands and eyes thee fixed,
About t’have spoke, but now, with head declined
Like a fair flower surcharged with dew, she weeps
And words addressed seem into tears dissolved,
Wetting the borders of her silk’n veil:
But now again she makes address to speak.

DELILAH. With doubtful feet and wavering resolution
I came, still dreading thy displeasure, Samson,
Which to have merited, without excuse,
I cannot but acknowledge; yet if tears
May expiate (though the fact more evil drew
In the perverse event then I foresaw)
My penance hath not slack’ned, though my pardon
No way assured. But conjugal affection
Prevailing over fear, and timorous doubt
Hath led me on desirous to behold
Once more thy face, and know of thy estate.
If aught in my ability may serve
To light’n what thou suffer’st, and appease
Thy mind with what amends is in my power,
Though late, yet in some part to recompense
My rash but more unfortunate misdeed.

SAMSON. Out, out, Hyena; these are thy wonted arts,
And arts of every woman false like thee,
To break all faith, all vows, deceive, betray,
Then as repentant to submit, beseech,
And reconcilement move with feigned remorse,
Confess, and promise wonders in her change,
Not truly penitent, but chief to try
Her husband, how far urged his patience bears,
His virtue or weakness which way to assail:
Then with more cautious and instructed skill
Again transgresses, and again submits;
That wisest and best men full oft beguiled
With goodness principled not to reject
The penitent, but ever to forgive,
Are drawn to wear out miserable days,
Entangled with a pois’nous bosom snake,
If not by quick destruction soon cut off
As I by thee, to Ages an example.

DELILAH. Yet hear me, Samson; not that I endeavor
To lessen or extenuate my offense,
But that on the other side if it be weighed
By itself, with aggravations not surcharged,
Or else with just allowance counterpoised
I may, if possible, thy pardon find
The easier towards me, or thy hatred less.
First granting, as I do, it was a weakness
In me, but incident to all our sex,
Curiosity, inquisitive, importune
Of secrets, then with like infirmity
To publish them, both common female faults:
Was it not weakness also to make known
For importunity, that is for naught,
Wherein consisted all thy strength and safety?
To what I did thou show’dst me first the way.
But I to enemies revealed, and should not.
Nor shouldst thou have trusted that to woman’s frailty;
Ere I to thee, thou to thyself wast cruel.
Let weakness then with weakness come to parl
So near related, or the same of kind,
Thine forgive mine; that men may censure thine
The gentler, if severely thou exact not
More strength from me, then in thyself was found.
And what if Love, which thou interpret’st hate,
The jealousy of Love, powerful of sway
In human hearts, nor less in mine towards thee,
Caused what I did? I saw thee mutable
Of fancy, feared lest one day thou wouldst leave me
As her at Timnah, sought by all means therefore
How to endear, and hold thee to me firmest:
No better way I saw then by importuning
To learn thy secrets, get into my power
Thy key of strength and safety: thou wilt say,
Why then revealed? I was assured by those
Who tempted me, that nothing was designed
Against thee but safe custody, and hold:
That made for me, I knew that liberty
Would draw thee forth to perilous enterprises,
While I at home sat full of cares and fears
Wailing thy absence in my widowed bed;
Here I should still enjoy thee day and night
Mine and Love’s prisoner, not the Philistines,
Whole to myself, unhazarded abroad,
Fearless at home of partners in my love.
These reasons in Love’s law have passed for good,
Though fond and reasonless to some perhaps:
And Love hath oft, well-meaning, wrought much woe,
Yet always pity or pardon hath obtained.
Be not unlike all others, not austere
As thou art strong, inflexible as steel.
If thou in strength all mortals dost exceed,
In uncompassionate anger do not so.

SAMSON. How cunningly the sorceress displays
Her own transgressions, to upbraid me mine!
That malice, not repentance, brought thee hither,
By this appears: I gave, thou say’st, the example,
I led the way; bitter reproach, but true,
I to myself was false ere thou to me;
Such pardon therefore as I give my folly,
Take to thy wicked deed: which when thou seest
Impartial, self-severe, inexorable,
Thou wilt renounce thy seeking, and much rather
Confess it feigned, weakness is thy excuse,
And I believe it, weakness to resist
Philistine gold: if weakness may excuse,
What Murderer, what Traitor, Parricide,
Incestuous, Sacrilegious, but may plead it?
All wickedness is weakness: that plea therefore
With God or Man will gain thee no remission.
But Love constrained thee; call it furious rage
To satisfy thy lust: Love seeks to have Love;
My love how couldst thou hope, who took’st the way
To raise in me inexpiable hate,
Knowing, as needs I must, by thee betrayed?
In vain thou striv’st to cover shame with shame,
Or by evasions thy crime uncover’st more.

DELILAH. Since thou determinst weakness for no plea
In man or woman, though to thy own condemning,
Hear what assaults I had, what snares besides,
What sieges girt me round, ere I consented;
Which might have awed the best-resolved of men,
The constantest to have yielded without blame.
It was not gold, as to my charge thou lay’st,
That wrought with me: thou know’st the Magistrates
And Princes of my country came in person,
Sollicited, commanded, threatened, urged,
Adjured by all the bonds of civil Duty
And of Religion, pressed how just it was,
How honorable, how glorious to entrap
A common enemy, who had destroyed
Such numbers of our Nation: and the Priest
Was not behind, but ever at my ear,
Preaching how meritorious with the gods
It would be to ensnare an irreligious
Dishonorer of Dagon: what had I
To oppose against such powerful arguments?
Only my love of thee held long debate
And combated in silence all these reasons
With hard contest: at length that grounded maxim
So rife and celebrated in the mouths
Of wisest men, that to the public good
Private respects must yield, with grave authority
Took full possession of me and prevailed;
Virtue, as I thought, truth, duty so enjoining.

SAMSON. I thought where all thy circling wiles would end;
In feigned Religion, smooth hypocrisy.
But had thy love, still odiously pretended,
Been, as it ought, sincere, it would have taught thee
Far other reasonings, brought forth other deeds.
I before all the daughters of my Tribe
And of my Nation chose thee from among
My enemies, loved thee, as too well thou knew’st,
Too well, unbosomed all my secrets to thee,
Not out of levity, but overpow’red
By thy request, who could deny thee nothing;
Yet now am judged an enemy. Why then
Didst thou at first receive me for thy husband?
Then, as since then, thy country’s foe professed:
Being once a wife, for me thou wast to leave
Parents and country; nor was I their subject,
Nor under their protection, but my own,
Thou mine, not theirs: if aught against my life
Thy country sought of thee, it sought unjustly,
Against the law of nature, law of nations,
No more thy country, but an impious crew
Of men conspiring to uphold their state
By worse than hostile deeds, violating the ends
For which our country is a name so dear;
Not therefore to be obeyed. But zeal moved thee;
To please thy gods thou didst it; gods unable
To acquit themselves and prosecute their foes
But by ungodly deeds, the contradiction
Of their own deity, Gods cannot be:
Less therefore to be pleased, obeyed, or feared,
These false pretexts and varnished colours failing,
Bare in thy guilt how foul must thou appear!

DELILAH. In argument with men a woman ever
Goes by the worse, whatever be her cause.

SAMSON. For want of words no doubt, or lack of breath,
Witness when I was worried with thy peals.

DELILAH. I was a fool, too rash, and quite mistaken
In what I thought would have succeeded best.
Let me obtain forgiveness of thee, Samson,
Afford me place to show what recompense
Towards thee I intend for what I have misdone,
Misguided: only what remains past cure
Bear not too sensibly, nor still insist
To afflict thyself in vain: though sight be lost,
Life yet hath many solaces, enjoyed
Where other senses want not their delights
At home in leisure and domestic ease,
Exempt from many a care and chance to which
Eyesight exposes daily men abroad.
I to the Lords will intercede, not doubting
Their favorable ear, that I may fetch thee
From forth this loathsome prison-house, to abide
With me, where my redoubled love and care
With nursing diligence, to me glad office,
May ever tend about thee to old age
With all things grateful cheered, and so supplied,
That what by me thou hast lost thou least shalt miss.

SAMSON. No, no, of my condition take no care;
It fits not; thou and I long since are twain;
Nor think me so unwary or accursed
To bring my feet again into the snare
Where once I have been caught; I know thy trains
Though dearly to my cost, thy gins, and toils;
Thy fair enchanted cup, and warbling charms
No more on me have power, their force is nulled,
So much of Adder’s wisdom I have learned
To fence my ear against thy sorceries.
If in my flower of youth and strength, when all men
Loved, honored, feared me, thou alone could hate me
Thy Husband, slight me, sell me, and forgo me;
How wouldst thou use me now, blind, and thereby
Deceivable, in most things as a child
Helpless, thence easily contemned, and scorned,
And last neglected? How wouldst thou insult
When I must live uxorious to thy will
In perfect thralldom, how again betray me,
Bearing my words and doings to the Lords
To gloss upon, and censuring, frown or smile?
This Gaol I count the house of Liberty
To thine whose doors my feet shall never enter.

DELILAH. Let me approach at least, and touch thy hand.

SAMSON. Not for thy life, lest fierce remembrance wake
My sudden rage to tear thee joint by joint.
At distance I forgive thee, go with that;
Bewail thy falshood, and the pious works
It hath brought forth to make thee memorable
Among illustrious women, faithful wives:
Cherish thy hastened widowhood with the gold
Of Matrimonial treason: so farewell.

DELILAH. I see thou art implacable, more deaf
To prayers, than winds and seas, yet winds to seas
Are reconciled at length, and Sea to Shore:
Thy anger, unappeasable, still rages,
Eternal tempest never to be calmed.
Why do I humble thus myself, and suing
For peace, reap nothing but repulse and hate,
Bid go with evil omen and the brand
Of infamy upon my name denounced?
To mix with thy concernments I desist
Henceforth, nor too much disapprove my own.
Fame if not double-faced is double-mouthed,
And with contrary blast proclaims most deeds,
On both his wings, one black, the other white,
Bears greatest names in his wild airy flight.
My name perhaps among the Circumcised
In Dan, in Judah, and the bordering Tribes,
To all posterity may stand defamed,
With malediction mentioned, and the blot
Of falshood most unconjugal traduced.
But in my country where I most desire,
In Ekron, Gaza, Ashdod, and in Gath
I shall be named among the famousest
Of Women, sung at solemn festivals,
Living and dead recorded, who to save
Her country from a fierce destroyer, chose
Above the faith of wedlock-bands, my tomb
With odors visited and annual flowers.
Not less renowned then in Mount Ephraim,
Jael who with inhospitable guile
Smote Sisera sleeping through the Temples nailed.
Nor shall I count it heinous to enjoy
The public marks of honor and reward
Conferred upon me, for the piety
Which to my country I was judged to have shown.
At this who ever envies or repines
I leave him to his lot, and like my own.

CHORUS. She’s gone, a manifest Serpent by her sting
Discovered in the end, till now concealed.

SAMSON. So let her go; God sent her to debase me,
And aggravate my folly who committed
To such a viper his most sacred trust
Of secrecy, my safety, and my life.

CHORUS. Yet beauty, though injurious, hath strange power,
After offense returning, to regain
Love once possessed, nor can be easily
Repulsed, without much inward passion felt
And secret sting of amorous remorse.

SAMSON. Love-quarrels oft in pleasing concord end,
Not wedlock-treachery endangering life.

CHORUS. It is not virtue, wisdom, valour, wit,
Strength, comeliness of shape, or amplest merit
That woman’s love can win or long inherit;
But what it is, hard is to say,
Harder to hit,
(Which way soever men refer it)
Much like thy riddle, Samson, in one day
Or seven, though one should musing sit;
If any of these or all, the Timnian bride
Had not so soon preferred
Thy Paranymph, worthless to thee compared,
Successor in thy bed,
Nor both so loosely disallied
Their nuptials, nor this last so treacherously
Had shorn the fatal harvest of thy head.
Is it for that such outward ornament
Was lavished on their Sex, that inward gifts
Were left for haste unfinished, judgment scant,
Capacity not raised to apprehend
Or value what is best
In choice, but oftest to affect the wrong?
Or was too much of self-love mixed,
Of constancy no root infixed,
That either they love nothing, or not long?
Whate’er it be, to wisest men and best
Seeming at first all heavenly under virgin veil,
Soft, modest, meek, demure,
Once joined, the contrary she proves, a thorn
Intestine, far within defensive arms
A cleaving mischief, in his way to virtue
Adverse and turbulent, or by her charms
Draws him awry enslaved
With dotage, and his sense depraved
To folly and shameful deeds which ruin ends.
What Pilot so expert but needs must wreck
Embarked with such a Steersmate at the Helm?
Favoured of Heav’n who finds
One virtuous rarely found,
That in domestic good combines:
Happy that house! his way to peace is smooth:
But virtue which breaks through all opposition,
And all temptation can remove,
Most shines and most is acceptable above.
Therefore God’s universal Law
Gave to the man despotic power
Over his female in due awe,
Nor from that right to part an hour,
Smile she or lower:
So shall he least confusion draw
On his whole life, not swayed
By female usurpation, nor dismayed.
But had we best retire? I see a storm.

SAMSON. Fair days have oft contracted wind and rain.

CHORUS. But this another kind of tempest brings.

SAMSON. Be less abstruse, my riddling days are past.

CHORUS. Look now for no enchanting voice, nor fear
The bait of honied words; a rougher tongue
Draws hitherward, I know him by his stride,
The Giant Harapha of Gath, his look
Haughty as is his pile high-built and proud.
Comes he in peace? what wind hath blown him hither
I less conjecture then when first I saw
The sumptuous Delilah floating this way:
His habit carries peace, his brow defiance.

SAMSON. Or peace or not, alike to me he comes.

CHORUS. His fraught we soon shall know, he now arrives.

HARAPHA. I come not, Samson, to condole thy chance,
As these perhaps, yet wish it had not been,
Though for no friendly intent. I am of Gath,
Men call me Harapha, of stock renowned
As Og or Anak and the Enims old
That Kiriathaim held, thou know’st me now
If thou at all art known. Much I have heard
Of thy prodigious might and feats performed
Incredible to me, in this displeased,
That I was never present on the place
Of those encounters, where we might have tried
Each other’s force in camp or listed field:
And now am come to see of whom such noise
Hath walked about, and each limb to survey,
If thy appearance answer loud report.

SAMSON. The way to know were not to see but taste.

HARAPHA. Dost thou already single me? I thought
Gives and the Mill had tamed thee. O that fortune
Had brought me to the field where thou art famed
To have wrought such wonders with an Ass’s Jaw;
I should have forced thee soon with other arms,
Or left thy carcass where the Ass lay thrown:
So had the glory of Prowess been recovered
To Palestine, won by a Philistine
From the unforeskinned race, of whom thou hear’st
The highest name for valiant Acts, that honor
Certain to have won by mortal duel from thee,
I lose, prevented by thy eyes put out.

SAMSON. Boast not of what thou wouldst have done, but do
What then thou would’st, thou seest it in thy hand.

HARAPHA. To combat with a blind man I disdain
And thou hast need much washing to be touched.

SAMSON. Such usage as your honorable Lords
Afford me assassinated and betrayed,
Who durst not with their whole united powers
In fight withstand me single and unarmed,
Nor in the house with chamber Ambushes
Close-banded durst attack me, no, not sleeping,
Till they had hired a woman with their gold
Breaking her Marriage Faith to circumvent me.
Therefore without feigned shifts let be assigned
Some narrow place enclosed, where sight may give thee.
Or rather flight, no great advantage on me;
Then put on all thy gorgeous arms, thy Helmet
And Brigandine of brass, thy broad Habergeon.
Vant-brass and Greves, and Gauntlet, add thy Spear
A Weaver’s beam, and seven-times-folded shield.
I only with an Oak’n staff will meet thee,
And raise such outcries on thy clattered Iron,
Which long shall not withhold me from thy head,
That in a little time while breath remains thee,
Thou oft shalt wish thyself at Gath to boast
Again in safety what thou wouldst have done
To Samson, but shalt never see Gath more.

HARAPHA. Thou durst not thus disparage glorious arms
Which greatest Heroes have in battle worn,
Their ornament and safety, had not spells
And black enchantments, some Magician’s Art
Armed thee or charmed thee strong, which thou from Heaven
Feign’dst at thy birth was giv’n thee in thy hair,
Where strength can least abide, though all thy hairs
Were bristles ranged like those that ridge the back
Of chafed wild Boars, or ruffled Porcupines.

SAMSON. I know no Spells, use no forbidden Arts;
My trust is in the living God who gave me
At my Nativity this strength, diffused
No less through all my sinews, joints and bones,
Than thine, while I preserved these locks unshorn,
The pledge of my unviolated vow.
For proof hereof, if Dagon be thy god,
Go to his Temple, invocate his aid
With solemnest devotion, spread before him
How highly it concerns his glory now
To frustrate and dissolve these Magic spells,
Which I to be the power of Israel’s God
Avow, and challenge Dagon to the test,
Offering to combat thee his Champion bold,
With the utmost of his Godhead seconded:
Then thou shalt see, or rather to thy sorrow
Soon feel, whose God is strongest, thine or mine.

HARAPHA. Presume not on thy God, whate’er he be,
Thee he regards not, owns not, hath cut off
Quite from his people, and delivered up
Into thy Enemy’s hand, permitted them
To put out both thine eyes, and fettered send thee
Into the common Prison, there to grind
Among the Slaves and Asses thy comrades,
As good for nothing else, no better service
With those, thy boist’rous locks, no worthy match
For valor to assail, nor by the sword
Of noble Warrior, so to stain his honor,
But by the Barber’s razor best subdued.

SAMSON. All these indignities, for such they are
From thine, these evils I deserve and more,
Acknowledge them from God inflicted on me
Justly, yet despair not of his final pardon
Whose ear is ever open; and his eye
Gracious to re-admit the suppliant;
In confidence whereof I once again
Defy thee to the trial of mortal fight,
By combat to decide whose god is God,
Thine or whom I with Israel’s Sons adore.

HARAPHA. Fair honor that thou dost thy God, in trusting
He will accept thee to defend his cause,
A Murderer, a Revolter, and a Robber.

SAMSON. Tongue-doubty Giant, how dost thou prove me these?

HARAPHA. Is not thy Nation subject to our Lords?
Thir Magistrates confessed it, when they took thee
As a League-breaker and delivered bound
Into our hands: for hadst thou not committed
Notorious murder on those thirty men
At Ashkelon, who never did thee harm,
Then like a Robber strip’dst them of their robes?
The Philistines, when thou hadst broke the league,
Went up with armed powers thee only seeking,
To others did no violence nor spoil.

SAMSON. Among the Daughters of the Philistines
I chose a Wife, which argued me no foe;
And in your City held my Nuptial Feast:
But your ill-meaning Politician Lords,
Under pretence of Bridal friends and guests,
Appointed to await me thirty spies,
Who threatning cruel death constrained the bride
To wring from me and tell to them my secret,
That solved the riddle which I had proposed.
When I perceived all set on enmity,
As on my enemies, wherever chanced,
I used hostility, and took their spoil
To pay my underminers in their coin.
My Nation was subjected to your Lords.
It was the force of Conquest; force with force
Is well ejected when the Conquered can.
But I a private person, whom my Country
As a league-breaker gave up bound, presumed
Single Rebellion and did Hostile Acts.
I was no private but a person raised
With strength sufficient and command from Heav’n
To free my Country; if their servile minds
Me their Deliverer sent would not receive,
But to their Masters gave me up for nought,
The unworthier they; whence to this day they serve.
I was to do my part from Heav’n assigned,
And had performed it if my known offense
Had not disabled me, not all your force:
These shifts refuted, answer thy appellant
Though by his blindness maimed for high attempts,
Who now defies thee thrice to single fight,
As a petty enterprise of small enforce.

HARAPHA. With thee a Man condemned, a Slave enrolled,
Due by the Law to capital punishment?
To fight with thee no man of arms will deign.

SAMSON. Cam’st thou for this, vain boaster, to survey me, To descant on my strength, and give thy verdict? Come nearer, part not hence so slight informed; But take good heed my hand survey not thee.

HARAPHA. O Baal-zebub! can my ears unused
Hear these dishonors, and not render death?

SAMSON. No man withholds thee, nothing from thy hand
Fear I incurable; bring up thy van,
My heels are fettered, but my fist is free.

HARAPHA. This insolence other kind of answer fits.

SAMSON. Go baffled coward, lest I run upon thee,
Though in these chains, bulk without spirit vast,
And with one buffet lay thy structure low,
Or swing thee in the Air, then dash thee down
To the hazard of thy brains and shattered sides.

HARAPHA. By Ashtaroth ere long thou shalt lament
These braveries in Irons loaden on thee.

CHORUS. His Giantship is gone somewhat crestfall’n,
Stalking with less unconscionable strides,
And lower looks, but in a sultry chafe.

SAMSON. I dread him not, nor all his Giant-brood,
Though Fame divulge him Father of five Sons
All of Gigantic size, Goliath chief.

CHORUS. He will directly to the Lords, I fear,
And with malicious counsel stir them up
Some way or other yet further to afflict thee.

SAMSON. He must allege some cause, and offered fight
Will not dare mention, lest a question rise
Whether he durst accept the offer or not,
And that he durst not plain enough appeared.
Much more affliction then already felt
They cannot well impose, nor I sustain;
If they intend advantage of my labors
The work of many hands, which earns my keeping
With no small profit daily to my owners.
But come what will, my deadliest foe will prove
My speediest friend, by death to rid me hence,
The worst that he can give, to me the best.
Yet so it may fall out, because their end
Is hate, not help to me, it may with mine
Draw their own ruin who attempt the deed.

CHORUS. Oh how comely it is and how reviving
To the Spirits of just men long oppressed!
When God into the hands of their deliverer
Puts invincible might
To quell the mighty of the Earth, the oppressor,
The brute and boist’rous force of violent men
Hardy and industrious to support
Tyrannic power, but raging to pursue
The righteous and all such as honor Truth;
He all their Ammunition
And feats of War defeats
With plain Heroic magnitude of mind
And celestial vigor armed,
Thir Armories and Magazines contemns,
Renders them useless, while
With winged expedition
Swift as the lightning glance he executes
His errand on the wicked, who surprised
Lose their defense, distracted and amazed.
But patience is more oft the exercise
Of Saints, the trial of their fortitude,
Making them each his own Deliverer,
And Victor over all
That tyranny or fortune can inflict,
Either of these is in thy lot,
Samson, with might endued
Above the Sons of men; but sight bereaved
May chance to number thee with those
Whom Patience finally must crown.
This Idol’s day hath been to thee no day of rest,
Laboring thy mind
More than the working day thy hands,
And yet perhaps more trouble is behind.
For I descry this way
Some other tending, in his hand
A Scepter or quaint staff he bears,
Comes on amain, speed in his look.
By his habit I discern him now
A Public Officer, and now at hand.
His message will be short and voluble.

OFFICER. Hebrews, the Pris’ner Samson here I seek.

CHORUS. His manacles remark him, there he sits.

OFFICER. Samson, to thee our Lords thus bid me say;
This day to Dagon is a solemn Feast,
With Sacrifices, Triumph, Pomp, and Games;
Thy strength they know surpassing human rate,
And now some public proof thereof require
To honor this great Feast, and great Assembly;
Rise therefore with all speed and come along,
Where I will see thee heartened and fresh clad
To appear as fits before the illustrious Lords.

SAMSON. Thou knowst I am an Hebrew, therefore tell them,
Our Law forbids at their Religious Rites
My presence; for that cause I cannot come.

OFFICER. This answer, be assured, will not content them.

SAMSON. Have they not Sword-players, and ev’ry sort
Of Gymnic Artists, Wrestlers, Riders, Runners,
Jugglers and Dancers, Antics, Mummers, Mimics,
But they must pick me out with shackles tired,
And over-labored at their public Mill,
To make them sport with blind activity?
Do they not seek occasion of new quarrels
On my refusal to distress me more,
Or make a game of my calamities?
Return the way thou cam’st, I will not come.

OFFICER. Regard thyself, this will offend them highly.

SAMSON. Myself? my conscience and internal peace.
Can they think me so broken, so debased
With corporal servitude, that my mind ever
Will condescend to such absurd commands?
Although their drudge, to be their fool or jester,
And in my midst of sorrow and heart-grief
To show them feats, and play before their god,
The worst of all indignities, yet on me
Joined with extreme contempt? I will not come.

OFFICER. My message was imposed on me with speed,
Brooks no delay: is this thy resolution?

SAMSON. So take it with what speed thy message needs.

OFFICER. I am sorry what this stoutness will produce.

SAMSON. Perhaps thou shalt have cause to sorrow indeed.

CHORUS. Consider, Samson; matters now are strained
Up to the height, whether to bold or break;
He’s gone, and who knows how he may report
Thy words by adding fuel to the flame?
Expect another message more imperious,
More Lordly thund’ring then thou well wilt bear.

SAMSON. Shall I abuse this Consecrated gift
Of strength, again returning with my hair
After my great transgression, so requite
Favor renewed, and add a greater sin
By prostituting holy things to Idols;
A Nazarite in place abominable
Vaunting my strength in honor to their Dagon?
Besides, how vile, contemptible, ridiculous,
What act more execrably unclean, profane?

CHORUS. Yet with this strength thou serv’st the Philistines,
Idolatrous, uncircumcised, unclean.

SAMSON. Not in their Idol-worship, but by labor
Honest and lawful to deserve my food
Of those who have me in their civil power.

CHORUS. Where the heart joins not, outward acts defile not.

SAMSON. Where outward force constrains, the sentence holds:
But who constrains me to the Temple of Dagon,
Not dragging? the Philistine Lords command.
Commands are no constraints. If I obey them,
I do it freely; venturing to displease
God for the fear of Man, and Man prefer,
Set God behind: which in his jealousy
Shall never, unrepented, find forgiveness.
Yet that he may dispense with me or thee
Present in Temples at Idolatrous Rites
For some important cause, thou needst not doubt.

CHORUS. How thou wilt here come off surmounts my reach.

SAMSON. Be of good courage, I begin to feel
Some rousing motions in me which dispose
To something extraordinary my thoughts.
I with this Messenger will go along,
Nothing to do, be sure, that may dishonor
Our Law, or stain my vow of Nazarite.
If there be aught of presage in the mind,
This day will be remarkable in my life
By some great act, or of my days the last.

CHORUS. In time thou hast resolved, the man returns.

OFFICER. Samson, this second message from our Lords
To thee I am bid say. Art thou our Slave,
Our Captive, at the public Mill our drudge,
And dar’st thou at our sending and command
Dispute thy coming? come without delay;
Or we shall find such Engines to assail
And hamper thee, as thou shalt come of force,
Though thou wert firmlier fastened than a rock.

SAMSON. I could be well content to try their Art,
Which to no few of them would prove pernicious.
Yet knowing their advantages too many,
Because they shall not trail me through their streets
Like a wild Beast, I am content to go.
Master’s commands come with a power resistless
To such as owe them absolute subjection;
And for a life who will not change his purpose?
(So mutable are all the ways of men!)
Yet this be sure, in nothing to comply
Scandalous or forbidden in our Law.

OFFICER. I praise thy resolution, doff these links:
By this compliance thou wilt win the Lords
To favor, and perhaps to set thee free.

SAMSON. Brethren, farewell, your company along
I will not wish, lest it perhaps offend them
To see me girt with Friends; and how the sight
Of me as of a common Enemy,
So dreaded once, may now exasperate them
I know not. Lords are Lordliest in their wine,
And the well-feasted Priest then soonest fired
With zeal, if aught Religion seem concerned:
No less the people on their Holy-days
Impetuous, insolent, unquenchable;
Happ’n what may, of me expect to hear
Nothing dishonorable, impure, unworthy
Our God, our Law, my Nation, or my self,
The last of me or no I cannot warrant.

CHORUS. Go, and the Holy One
Of Israel be thy guide
To what may serve his glory best, and spread his name
Great among the Heathen round:
Send thee the Angel of thy Birth, to stand
Fast by thy side, who from thy Father’s field
Rode up in flames after his message told
Of thy conception, and be now a shield
Of fire; that Spirit that first rushed on thee
In the camp of Dan
Be efficacious in thee now at need.
For never was from Heaven imparted
Measure of strength so great to mortal seed,
As in thy wondrous actions hath been seen.
But wherefore comes old Manoah in such haste
With youthful steps? much livelier than erewhile
He seems: supposing here to find his Son,
Or of him bringing to us some glad news?

MANOAH. Peace with you, brethren; my inducement hither
Was not at present here to find my Son,
By order of the Lords new parted hence
To come and play before them at their Feast.
I heard all as I came, the City rings
And numbers thither flock, I had no will,
Lest I should see him forced to things unseemly.
But that which moved my coming now, was chiefly
To give ye part with me what hope I have
With good success to work his liberty.

CHORUS. That hope would much rejoice us to partake
With thee; say, reverend Sire, we thirst to hear.

MANOAH. I have attempted one by one the Lords
Either at home, or through the high street passing,
With supplication prone and Fathers tears
To accept of ransom for my Son their pris’ner,
Some much averse I found and wondrous harsh,
Contemptuous, proud, set on revenge and spite;
That part most reverenced Dagon and his Priests,
Others more moderate-seeming, but their aim
Private reward, for which both God and State
They easily would set to sale, a third
More generous far and civil, who confessed
They had enough revenged, having reduced
Thir foe to misery beneath their fears,
The rest was magnanimity to remit,
If some convenient ransom were proposed.
What noise or shout was that? it tore the Sky.

CHORUS. Doubtless the people shouting to behold
Thir once great dread, captive, and blind before them,
Or at some proof of strength before them shown.

MANOAH. His ransom, if my whole inheritance
May compass it, shall willingly be paid
And numbered down: much rather I shall choose
To live the poorest in my Tribe, than richest,
And he in that calamitous prison left.
No, I am fixed not to part hence without him.
For his redemption all my Patrimony,
If need be, I am ready to forgo
And quit: not wanting him, I shall want nothing.

CHORUS. Fathers are wont to lay up for their Sons,
Thou for thy Son art bent to lay out all;
Sons wont to nurse their Parents in old age,
Thou in old age car’st how to nurse thy Son,
Made older than thy age through eyesight lost.

MANOAH. It shall be my delight to tend his eyes,
And view him sitting in the house, ennobled
With all those high exploits by him achieved,
And on his shoulders waving down those locks,
That of a Nation armed the strength contained:
And I persuade me God had not permitted
His strength again to grow up with his hair
Garrisoned round about him like a Camp
Of faithful Souldiery, were not his purpose
To use him further yet in some great service,
Not to sit idle with so great a gift
Useless, and thence ridiculous about him.
And since his strength with eyesight was not lost,
God will restore him eyesight to his strength.

CHORUS. Thy hopes are not ill-founded nor seem vain
Of his delivery, and thy joy thereon
Conceived, agreeable to a Father’s love,
In both which we, as next participate.

MANOAH. I know your friendly minds and—O what noise!
Mercy of Heav’n, what hideous noise was that?
Horribly loud unlike the former shout.

CHORUS. Noise call you it or universal groan
As if the whole inhabitation perished,
Blood, death, and deathful deeds are in that noise,
Ruin, destruction at the utmost point.

MANOAH. Of ruin indeed methought I heard the noise;
Oh, it continues, they have slain my Son.

CHORUS. Thy Son is rather slaying them; that outcry
From slaughter of one foe could not ascend.

MANOAH. Some dismal accident it needs must be;
What shall we do, stay here or run and see?

CHORUS. Best keep together here, lest running thither
We unawares run into danger’s mouth.
This evil on the Philistines is fall’n;
From whom could else a general cry be heard?
The sufferers then will scarce molest us here,
From other hands we need not much to fear.
What if his eyesight (for to Israel’s God
Nothing is hard) by miracle restored,
He now be dealing dole among his foes,
And over heaps of slaughtered walk his way?

MANOAH. That were a joy presumptuous to be thought.

CHORUS. Yet God hath wrought things as incredible
For his people of old; what hinders now?

MANOAH. He can, I know, but doubt to think he will;
Yet Hope would fain subscribe, and tempts Belief.
A little stay will bring some notice hither.

CHORUS. Of good or bad so great, of bad the sooner;
For evil news rides post, while good news baits.
And to our wish I see one hither speeding,
An Hebrew, as I guess, and of our Tribe.

MESSENGER. O whither shall I run, or which way fly
The sight of this so horrid spectacle
Which erst my eyes beheld and yet behold;
For dire imagination still pursues me.
But providence or instinct of nature seems,
Or reason though disturbed, and scarce consulted
To have guided me aright, I know not how,
To thee first, reverend Manoah, and to these
My Countrymen, whom here I knew remaining,
As at some distance from the place of horror,
So in the sad event too much concerned.

MANOAH. The accident was loud, and here before thee
With rueful cry, yet what it was we hear not,
No Preface needs, thou seest we long to know.

MESSENGER. It would burst forth, but I recover breath
And sense distract, to know well what I utter.

MANOAH. Tell us the sum, the circumstance defer.

MESSENGER. Gaza yet stands, but all her Sons are fall’n,
All in a moment overwhelmed and fall’n.

MANOAH. Sad, but thou knowst to Israelites not saddest
The desolation of a Hostile City.

MESSENGER. Feed on that first; there may in grief be surfeit.

MANOAH. Relate by whom.


MANOAH. That still lessens
The sorrow, and converts it nigh to joy.

MESSENGER. Ah, Manoah, I refrain, too suddenly
To utter what will come at last too soon;
Lest evil tidings with too rude eruption
Hitting thy aged ear should pierce too deep.

MANOAH. Suspense in news is torture, speak them out.

MESSENGER. Then take the worst in brief: Samson is dead.

MANOAH. The worst indeed, O all my hope’s defeated
To free him hence! but death who sets all free
Hath paid his ransom now and full discharge.
What windy joy this day had I conceived
Hopeful of his Delivery, which now proves
Abortive as the first-born bloom of spring
Nipped with the lagging rear of winter’s frost.
Yet ere I give the reins to grief, say first,
How died he? death to life is crown or shame.
All by him fell, thou say’st; by whom fell he?
What glorious band gave Samson his death’s wound?

MESSENGER. Unwounded of his enemies he fell.

MANOAH. Wearied with slaughter then or how? explain.

MESSENGER. By his own hands.

MANOAH. Self-violence? what cause
Brought him so soon at variance with himself
Among his foes?

MESSENGER. Inevitable cause
At once both to destroy and be destroyed;
The Edifice where all were met to see him
Upon their heads and on his own he pulled.

MANOAH. O lastly over-strong against thyself!
A dreadful way thou took’st to thy revenge.
More than enough we know; but while things yet
Are in confusion, give us if thou canst,
Eye-witness of what first or last was done,
Relation more particular and distinct.

MESSENGER. Occasions drew me early to this City,
And as the gates I entered with Sunrise,
The morning Trumpet’s Festival proclaimed
Through each high street: little I had dispatched
When all abroad was rumoured that this day
Samson should be brought forth to show the people
Proof of his mighty strength in feats and games;
I sorrowed at his captive state, but minded
Not to be absent at that spectacle.
The building was a spacious Theatre
Half round on two main Pillars vaulted high,
With seats where all the Lords and each degree
Of sort, might sit in order to behold.
The other side was op’n, where the throng
On banks and scaffolds under Sky might stand;
I among these aloof obscurely stood.
The Feast and noon grew high, and Sacrifice
Had filled their hearts with mirth, high cheer, and wine,
When to their sports they turned. Immediately
Was Samson as a public servant brought,
In their state Livery clad; before him Pipes
And Timbrels, on each side went armed guards,
Both horse and foot before him and behind
Archers, and Slingers, Cataphracts and Spears.
At sight of him the people with a shout
Rifted the Air clamouring their god with praise,
Who had made their dreadful enemy their thrall.
He, patient but undaunted where they led him,
Came to the place, and what was set before him
Which without help of eye, might be assayed,
To heave, pull, draw, or break, he still performed
All with incredible, stupendous force,
None daring to appear Antagonist.
At length for intermission sake they led him
Between the pillars; he his guide requested
(For so from such as nearer stood we heard)
As overtired to let him lean a while
With both his arms on those two massy Pillars
That to the arched roof gave main support.
He unsuspicious led him; which when Samson
Felt in his arms, with head a while inclined,
And eyes fast fixed he stood, as one who prayed,
Or some great matter in his mind revolved.
At last with head erect thus cried aloud,
“Hitherto, Lords, what your commands imposed
I have performed, as reason was, obeying,
Not without wonder or delight beheld.
Now of my own accord such other trial
I mean to show you of my strength, yet greater;
As with amaze shall strike all who behold.”
This uttered, straining all his nerves he bowed,
As with the force of winds and waters pent,
When Mountains tremble, those two massy Pillars
With horrible convulsion to and fro,
He tugged, he shook, till down they came and drew
The whole roof after them, with burst of thunder
Upon the heads of all who sat beneath,
Lords, Ladies, Captains, Councellors, or Priests,
Thir choice nobility and flower, not only
Of this but each Philistine City round
Met from all parts to solemnize this Feast.
Samson with these immixed, inevitably
Pulled down the same destruction on himself;
The vulgar only ’scaped who stood without.

CHORUS. O dearly-bought revenge, yet glorious!
Living or dying, thou hast fulfilled
The work for which thou wast foretold
To Israel, and now liest victorious
Among thy slain self-killed
Not willingly, but tangled in the fold
Of dire necessity, whose law in death conjoined
Thee with thy slaughtered foes in number more
Than all thy life had slain before.

SEMI-CHORUS. While their hearts were jocund and sublime
Drunk with Idolatry, drunk with Wine,
And fat regorgEd of Bulls and Goats,
Chanting their Idol, and preferring
Before our living Dread who dwells
In Silo his bright Sanctuary:
Among them he a spirit of frenzy sent,
Who hurt their minds,
And urged them on with mad desire
To call in haste for their destroyer;
They only set on sport and play
Unwittingly importuned
Their own destruction to come speedy upon them.
So fond are mortal men
Fall’n into wrath divine,
As their own ruin on themselves to invite,
Insensate left, or to sense reprobate,
And with blindness internal struck.

SEMI-CHORUS. But he though blind of sight,
Despised and thought extinguished quite,
With inward eyes illuminated
His fiery virtue roused
From under ashes into sudden flame,
And as an ev’ning Dragon came,
Assailant on the perched roosts,
And nests in order ranged
Of tame villatic Fowl; but as an Eagle
His cloudless thunder bolted on their heads.
So virtue giv’n for lost,
Depressed, and overthrown, as seemed,
Like that self-begotten bird
In the Arabian woods embossed,
That no second knows nor third,
And lay erewhile a Holocaust,
From out her ashy womb now teemed
Revives, reflourishes, then vigorous most
When most unactive deemed,
And though her body die, her fame survives,
A secular bird ages of lives.

MANOAH. Come, come, no time for lamentation now,
Nor much more cause: Samson hath quit himself
Like Samson, and heroically hath finished
A life Heroic, on his Enemies
Fully revenged, hath left them years of mourning,
And lamentation to the Sons of Caphtor
Through all Philistine bounds. To Israel
Honor hath left, and freedom, let but them
Find courage to lay hold on this occasion,
To himself and Father’s house eternal fame;
And which is best and happiest yet, all this
With God not parted from him, as was feared,
But favoring and assisting to the end.
Nothing is here for tears, nothing to wail
Or knock the breast, no weakness, no contempt,
Dispraise, or blame, nothing but well and fair,
And what may quiet us in a death so noble.
Let us go find the body where it lies
Soaked in his enemies’ blood, and from the stream
With lavers pure and cleansing herbs wash off
The clotted gore. I with what speed the while
(Gaza is not in plight to say us nay)
Will send for all my kindred, all my friends
To fetch him hence and solemnly attend
With silent obsequy and funeral train
Home to his Father’s house: there will I build him
A Monument, and plant it round with shade
Of Laurel ever green, and branching Palm,
With all his Trophies hung, and Acts enrolled
In copious Legend, or sweet Lyric Song.
Thither shall all the valiant youth resort,
And from his memory inflame their breasts
To matchless valor, and adventures high:
The Virgins also shall on feastful days
Visit his Tomb with flowers, only bewailing
His lot unfortunate in nuptial choice,
From whence captivity and loss of eyes.

CHORUS. All is best, though we oft doubt,
What the unsearchable dispose
Of highest wisdom brings about,
And ever best found in the close.
Oft he seems to hide his face,
But unexpectedly returns
And to his faithful Champion hath in place
Bore witness gloriously; whence Gaza mourns
And all that band them to resist
His uncontrollable intent,
His servants he with new acquist
Of true experience from this great event
With peace and consolation hath dismissed,
And calm of mind all passion spent.

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