« PreviousContinue »
Of gymnic artists, wrestlers, riders, runners,
Jugglers, and dancers, antics, mummers, mimics,
But they must pick me out, with shackles tir'd,
And over-labor'd 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
Off. Regard thyself; this will offend them highly.
Sams. Myself? my conscience, and internal peace.
Can they think me so broken, so debas'd
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
Join'd with extreme contempt? I will not come.
Off. My message was impos'd on me with speed,
Brooks no delay: is this thy resolution?
Sams. So take it with what speed thy message
Sams. 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.
Chor. In time thou hast resolv'd, the man returns
Off. 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 fasten'd than a rock.
Sams. 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.
Masters' 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.
Off. I praise thy resolution: doff these links:
By this compliance thou wilt win the lords
To favor, and perhaps to set thee free.
Sams. 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 fir'd
With zeal, if aught religion seem concern'd;
No less the people, on their holy-days,
Impetuous, insolent, unquenchable:
Happen what may, of me expect to hear
Nothing dishonorable, impure, unworthy
Our God, our law, my nation, or myself,
The last of me or no I cannot warrant.
Sams. Shall I abuse this consecrated gift
Of strength, again returning with my hair
After my great transgression, so requite
Favor renew'd, 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?
Chor. Yet with this strength thou serv'st the Great among the Heathen round;
Idolatrous, uncircumcis'd, unclean.
Sams. Not in their idol-worship, but by labor
Honest and lawful to deserve my food
Of those who have me in their civil power.
Chor. Where the heart joins not, outward acts
Sams. Where outward force constrains, the sen-
But who constrains me to the temple of Dagon,
Not dragging? the Philistian 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 need'st not doubt.
Chor. How thou wilt here come off surmounts my
Chor. Go, and the Holy One
Of Israel be thy guide
To what may serve his glory best, and spread his
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 rush'd 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?
Man. Peace with you, brethren; my inducement hither
Was not at present here to find my son,
By order of the lords now 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 fore'd to things unseemly.
But that, which mov'd my coming now, was chiefly
To give ye part with me what hope I have
With good success to work his liberty.
Chor. That hope would much rejoice us to partake
With thee; say, reverend sire, we thirst to hear.
Man I have attempted one by one the lords,
Either at home, or through the high street passing,
With supplication prone and father's tears,
To accept of ransom for my son their prisoner.
Some much averse I found, and wondrous harsh,
Contemptuous, proud, set on revenge and spite;
That part most reverenc'd 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 confess'd
They had enough reveng'd; having reduc'd
Their foe to misery beneath their fears,
The rest was magnanimity to remit,
If some convenient ransom were propos'd.
What noise or shout was that? it tore the sky.
Chor. Doubtless the people shouting to behold Their once great dread, captive, and blind before them,
Or at some proof of strength before them shown.
Man. His ransom, if my whole inheritance
May compass it, shall willingly be paid
And number'd 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 fix'd not to part hence without him.
For his redemption all my patrimony,
If need be, I am ready to forego
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 eye-sight (for to Israel's God
Nothing is hard) by miracle restor'd,
He now be dealing dole among his foes,
And over heaps of slaughter'd walk his way?
Chor. Thy son is rather slaying them: that outcry From slaughter of one foe could not ascend.
Man. Some dismal accident it needs must be; What shall we do, stay here or run and see?
Chor. Best keep together here, lest, running thither, We unawares run into danger's mouth.
Man. That were a joy presumptuous to be thought
Chor. Yet God hath wrought things as incredible
For his people of old; what hinders now?
Man. 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.
Chor. Of good or bad so great, of bad the sooner;
For evil news rides post, while good news bates.
And to our wish I see one hither speeding,
An Hebrew, as I guess, and of our tribe.
Mess. 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 disturb'd, 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 concern'd.
And quit: not wanting him, I shall want nothing.
Chor. 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 eye-sight lost.
Man. It shall be my delight to tend his eyes,
And view him sitting in the house, ennobled
With all those high exploits by him achiev'd,
And on his shoulders waving down those locks
That of a nation arm'd the strength contain'd:
And I persuade me, God had not permitted
His strength again to grow up with his hair,
Garrison'd round about him like a camp
Of faithful soldiery, 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 eye-sight was not lost,
God will restore him eye-sight to his strength.
Chor. Thy hopes are not ill-founded, nor seem vain
Of his delivery, and the joy thereon
Conceiv'd, agreeable to a father's love,
In both which we, as next, participate.
Man. I know your friendly minds and-O what
Mercy of Heaven, what hideous noise was that,
Horribly loud, unlike the former shout.
Chor. Noise call you it, or universal groan,
As if the whole inhabitation perish'd!
Blood, death, and deathful deeds, are in that noise,
Ruin, destruction at the utmost point.
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 conceiv'd
Hopeful of his delivery, which now proves
Abortive as the first-born bloom of spring
Nipt with the lagging rear of winter's frost!
Yet ere I give the reins to grief, say first,
Man. Of ruin indeed methought I heard the noise: How died he; death to life is crown or shame. Oh! it continues, they have slain my son.
All by him fell, thou say'st: by whom fell he?
What glorious hand gave Samson his death's wound?
Mess. Unwounded of his enemies he fell. [plain.
Man. Wearied with slaughter then, or how? ex-
Mess. By his own hands.
Self-violence? what cause
Brought him so soon at variance with himself
Among his foes?
Man. 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.
Mess. It would burst forth, but I recover breath
And sense distract, to know well what I utter.
Man. Tell us the sum, the circumstance defer. Mess. Gaza yet stands, but all her sons are fall'n, All in a moment overwhelm'd and fall'n.
Man. Sad, but thou know'st to Israelites not saddest
The desolation of a hostile city.
Mess. Feed on that first: there may in grief be
Man. Relate by whom.
That still lessens
The sorrow, and converts it nigh to joy.
Mess. Ah! Manoah, I refrain too suddenly
To utter what will come at last too soon;
Lest evil tidings with too rude irruption
Hitting thy aged ear should pierce too deep.
Man. Suspense in news is torture, speak them out.
Mess. Take then the worst in brief, Samson is dead.
Man. The worst indeed, O all my hopes de-
At once both to destroy, and be destroy'd;
The edifice, where all were met to see him,
Upon their heads and on his own he pull'd.
Man. O lastly over-strong against thyself!
A dreadful way thou took'st to thy revenge.
More than enough we know; but while things yet The work for which thou wast foretold
Are in confusion, give us, if thou canst,
Eye-witness of what first or last was done,
Relation more particular and distinct.
To Israel, and now liest victorious
Among thy slain self-kill'd,
Not willingly, but tangled in the fold
Of dire necessity, whose law in death conjoin'd
Thee with thy slaughter'd foes, in number more
Than all thy life hath slain before.
Mess. Occasions drew me early to this city;
And, as the gates I enter'd with sun-rise,
The morning trumpets festival proclaim'd
Through each high street: little I had dispatch'd,
When all abroad was rumor'd that this day
Samson should be brought forth, to show the people
Proof of his mighty strength in feats and games;
I sorrow'd 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!
1. Semichor. While their hearts were jocund and
Drunk with idolatry, drunk with wine,
And fat regorg'd 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,
The other side was open, 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 [wine,
Had fill'd their hearts with mirth, high cheer, and
When to their sports they turn'd. 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
A rchers, and slingers, cataphracts and spears.
At sight of him the people with a shout
Rifted the air, clamoring 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 assay'd,
To heave, pull, draw, or break, he still perform'd
All with incredible, stupendous force;
None daring to appear antagonist.
At length for intermission's sake they led him
Between the pillars; he his guide requested
(For so from such as nearer stood we heard)
As over-tir'd to let him lean awhile
Met from all parts to solemnize this feast.
Samson, with these inmix'd, inevitably
Pull'd down the same destruction on himself;
The vulgar only 'scap'd who stood without.
Chor. O dearly-bought revenge, yet glorious! Living or dying thou hast fulfill'd
And urg'd them on with mad desire
To call in haste for their destroyer;
They, only set on sport and play,
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.
2. Semichor. But he, though blind of sight,
Despis'd and thought extinguish'd quite,
With inward yes illuminated,
His fiery virtue rous'd
From under ashes into sudden flame,
And as an evening dragon came,
Assailant on the perched roosts
And nests in order rang'd
Of tame villatic fowl; but as an eagle
His cloudless thunder bolted on their heads.
So virtue, given for lost,
Depress'd, and overthrown, as seera'd,
Like that self-begotten bird
In the Arabian woods embost,
That no second knows nor third,
And lay erewhile a holocaust,
From out her ashy womb now teem'd,
Revives, reflourishes, then vigorous most
When most unactive deem'd;
And, though her body die, her fame survives
A secular bird ages of lives.
Man. Come, come; no time for lamentation now,
Nor much more cause; Samson hath quit himself
Like Samson, and heroicly hath finish'd
A life heroic, on his enemies
Fully reveng'd, hath left them years of mourning,
And lamentation to the sons of Caphtor
Through all Philistian 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 fear'd,
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
Soak'd 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
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 dismist.
And calm of mind, all passion spent.
With silent obsequy, and funeral train,
Home to his father's house: there will I build him But peaceful was the night,
A monument, and plant it round with shade
Of laurel ever-green, and branching palm,
With all his trophies hung, and acts enroll'd
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.
Chor. 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,
The idle spear and shield were high up hung; The hooked chariot stood
Unstain'd with hostile blood;
The trumpet spake not to the armed throng; And kings sat still with awful eye,
As if they surely knew their sovran Lord was by.
Wherein the Prince of light
His reign of peace upon the Earth began:
The winds, with wonder whist,
Smoothly the waters kist,
Whispering new joys to the mild ocean,
Who now hath quite forgot to rave,
While birds of calm sit brooding on the charmed
The stars, with deep amaze,
Stand fix'd in stedfast gaze,
Bending one way their precious influence;
And will not take their flight,
For all the morning light,
Or Lucifer that often warn'd them thence;
But in their glimmering orbs did glow,
Until their Lord himself bespake, and bid them go.
And, though the shady gloom
Had given day her room,
The Sun himself withheld his wonted speed,
And hid his head for shame,
As his inferior flame
The new-enlighten'd world no more should need:
He saw a greater Sun appear
Than his bright throne, or burning axletree, could
The shepherds on the lawn,
Or e'er the point of dawn,
Sat simply chatting in a rustic row;
Full little thought they then,
That the mighty Pan
Was kindly come to live with them below;
Perhaps their loves, or else their sheep,
Was all that did their silly thoughts so busy keep.
When such music sweet
Their hearts and ears did greet,
As never was by mortal finger strook;
Answering the stringed noise,
As all their souls in blissful rapture took:
The air, such pleasure loth to lose,
[close. With thousand echoes still prolongs each heavenly
Nature that heard such sound,
Beneath the hollow round
Of Cynthia's seat, the aery region thrilling,
Now was almost won
To think her part was done,
And that her reign had here its last fulfilling ; She knew such harmony alone
Could hold all Heaven and Earth in happier union.
At last surrounds their sight
A globe of circular light,
That with long beams the shamefac'd night array'd; The helmed Cherubim,
And sworded Seraphim,
Are seen in glittering ranks with wings display'd, Harping in loud and solemn quire,
With unexpressive notes, to Heaven's new-born Heir.
For, if such holy song
Enwrap our fancy long,
Time will run back, and fetch the age of gold;
And speckled Vanity
Will sicken soon and die,
Yea, Truth and Justice then
Will down return to men,
A voice of weeping heard and loud lament;
From haunted spring and dale,
Edg'd with poplar pale,
The parting genius is with sighing sent;
[keep. With flower-inwoven tresses torn,
Peor and Baälim
Forsake their temples dim,
With that twice-batter'd god of Palestine;
And mooned Ashtaroth,
Heaven's queen and mother both,
And leprous Sin will melt from earthly mould;
And Hell itself will pass away,
And leave her dolorous mansions to the peering day. In vain the Tyrian maids their wounded Thammuz
Now sits not girt with taper's holy shine;
The Libyc Hammon shrinks his horn,
And then at last our bliss
Full and perfect is,
The lonely mountains o'er,
And the resounding shore,
Shall from the surface to the centre shake;
When, at the world's last session,
The dreadful Judge in middle air shall spread his
Orb'd in a rainbow; and, like glories wearing,
His burning idol all of blackest hue;
Mercy will sit between,
Thron'd in celestial sheen,
In vain with cymbals' ring
They call the grisly king,
With radiant feet the tissued clouds down steering;
And Heaven, as at some festival,
Will open wide the gates of her high palace hall. Isis, and Orus, and the dog Anubis, haste.
In dismal dance about the furnace blue:
The brutish gods of Nile as fast,
But now begins; for, from this happy day, The old Dragon, under ground
In straiter limits bound,
Not half so far casts his usurped sway;
And, wroth to see his kingdom fail,
Swinges the scaly horror of his folded tail.
[mourn. The nymphs in twilight shade of tangled thickets
But wisest Fate says no,
This must not yet be so,
The babe yet lies in smiling infancy,
That on the bitter cross
Must redeem our loss;
Within his sacred chest;
So both himself and us to glorify: Yet first, to those ychain'd in sleep, The wakeful trump of doom must thunder through The sable-stoled sorcerers bear his worshipt ark.
Nought but profoundest Hell can be his shroud; [the deep; In vain with timbrell'd anthems dark
The oracles are dumb,
No voice or hideous hum
Runs through the arched roof in words deceiving.
Apollo from his shrine
Can no more divine,
With hollow shriek the steep of Delphos leaving.
No nightly trance, or breathed spell,
Inspires the pale-ey'd priests from the prophetic cell.
And sullen Moloch, fled,
Hath left in shadows dread
Nor is Osiris seen
In Memphian grove or green,
Trampling the unshower'd grass with lowings Nor can he be at rest
He feels from Judah's land
The dreaded infant's hand,
The rays of Bethlehem blind his dusky eyn;
Nor all the gods beside
Longer dare abide,
Not Typhon huge, ending in snaky twine:
Our babe, to show his Godhead true,
Can in his swaddling bands control the damned
So, when the Sun in bed,
Curtain'd with cloudy red,
Pillows his chin upon an orient wave,
The flocking shadows pale
Troop to the infernal jail,
Each fetter'd ghost slips to his several grave;
And the yellow-skirted Fayes
Fly after the night-steeds, leaving their moon-lov'd
But see, the Virgin blest
Hath laid her babe to rest;
Time is, our tedious song should here have ending: Heaven's youngest-teemed star
Hath fix'd her polish'd car,
Her sleeping Lord with handmaid lamp attending
And all about the courtly stable
Bright-harness'd angels sit in order serviceable.