« PreviousContinue »
Relieves me from my task of servile toil,
Daily in the common prison else enjoin'd me,
Where I, a prisoner chain'd, scarce freely draw
The air imprison'd also, close and damp,
Unwholesome draught: but here I feel amends,
The breath of Heaven fresh blowing, pure and
With day-spring born; here leave me to respire.
This day a solemn feast the people hold
To Dagon their sea-idol, and forbid
Laborious works; unwillingly this rest
Their 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 arm'd, no sooner found alone,
But rush upon me thronging, and present
Times past, what once I was, and what am now,
O, 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 offering burn'd,
As in a fiery column charioting
His God-like presence, and from some great act
Or benefit reveal'd to Abraham's race?
Why was my breeding order'd and prescrib'd
As of a person separate to God,
Design'd for great exploits; if I must die
Betray'd, captiv'd, and both my eyes put out,
Made of my enemies the scorn and gaze;
To grind in brazen fetters under task [strength,
With this Heaven-gifted strength? O glorious
Put to the labour of a beast, debas'd
Lower than bond-slave! Promise was that I
Should Israel from Philistian yoke deliver;
Ask for this great deliverer now, and find him
Eyeless in Gaza at the mill with slaves,
Himself in bonds under Philistian yoke:
Yet stay, let me not rashly call in doubt
Divine prediction; what if all foretold
Had been fulfill'd 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 lodg'd, 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 subtleties, 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
Haply 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 [eas'd,
Anmull'd, which might in part my grief have
Inferior to the vilest now become
Of man or worm; the vilest here excel me;
They creep, yet see; I, dark in light, expos'd
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 bereav'd 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 confin'd,
So obvious and so easy to be quench'd?
And not, as feeling, through all parts diffus'd,
That she might look at will through every pore?
Then had I not been thus exil'd 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 sepulchre, 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,
Chor. 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 diffus'd, With languish'd head unpropt,
As one past hope, abandon'd,
And by himself given over;
In slavish habit, ill-fitted weeds
O'er-worn and soil'd;
Or do my eyes misrepresent? Can this be he,
That heroic, that renown'd,
Irresistible Samson? whom unarm'd
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 hammer'd cuirass,
Chalybean temper'd steel, and frock of mail
But safest he who stood aloof,
When insupportably his foot advanc'd,
In scorn of their proud arms and warlike tools,
Spurn'd them to death by troops. The bold
Fled from his lionramp; old warriours turn'd
Their plated backs under his heel;
Or, groveling, soil'd their crested helmets in the
Then with what trivial weapon came to hand,
The jaw of a dead ass, his sword of bone,
A thousand fore-skins fell, the flower of Palestine,
In Ramath-lechi, famous to this day.
Then by main force pull'd up, and on his These two, proportion'd ill, drove me transverse. shoulders bore
Chor. Tax not divine disposal; wisest men
Have err'd, and by bad women been deceiv'd;
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 shouldst wed Philistian women rather
Than of thine own tribe fairer, or as fair,
At least of thy own nation, and as noble.
Sams. The first I saw at Timna, and she
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 Heaven.
Which shall I first bewail,
Thy bondage or lost sight,
Prison within prison
Thou art become (O worst imprisonment!)
The dungeon of thyself; thy soul, [complain)
(Which men enjoying sight oft without cause
Imprison'd now indeed,
In real darkness of the body dwells,
Shut up from outward light
"o incorporate with gloomy night;
er inward light, alas!
Puts forth no visual beam.
O mirror of our ficklestate,
Since man on Earth unparallel'd!
The rarer thy example stands, ·
By how much from the top of wonderous glory,
Strongest of mortal men,.
To lowest pitch of abject fortune thou art fallen.
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 ver
Might have subdued the Earth,
Universally crown'd with highest praises.
Sams, I bear the sound of words; their sense
Dissolves unjointed ere it reach my ear.
Chor. He speaks, let us draw nigh.-Matchless in might,
The glory late of Israel, now the grief;
We come, thy friends and neighbours not un-
From Eshtaol and Zora's fruitful vale,
To visit or bewail thee; or, if better,
Counsel or consolation we may bring,
Singly me against their conquerors
Acknowledg'd not, or not at all consider'd,
Deliverance offer'd: I on the other side
Us'd no ambition to commend my deeds;
Salve to thy sores; apt words have power to swage The deeds themselves, though mute, spoke land
The tumours of a troubled mind,
And are as balm to fester'd wounds.
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
Not to be found, though sought. Ye see, O
How `mger evils have enclos'd me round;
Yet tha hich was the worst now least afflicts
To a deceitful woman? tell me, friends,
Am I not sung and proverb'd 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 pair'd,
Me, not my parents, that I sought to wed
The daughter of an infidel: they knew not
That what I motion'd was of God; I knew
From intimate impulse, and therefore urg'd
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 Sorec, Dalila,
That specious monster, my accomplish'd 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, vanquish'd with a peal of words, (0
Gave up my fort of silence to a woman.
Chor, In seeking just occasion to provoke
The Philistine, thy country's enemy,
Thou never wast amiss, 1 bear thee witness:
Yet Israël still serves with all his sons.
Samps. 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
But they persisted deaf, and would not seem
Sanis. Your coming, friends, revives me; for To count them things worth notice, till at length
Their lords the Philistines with gather'd powers
Enter'd Judea seeking me, who then
Safe to the rock of Etham was retir'd;
Not flying, but fore-casting in what place
To set upon them, what advantag'd best:
head,Mean while the men of Judah, to prevent
The harass of their land, beset me ronud;
I willingly on some conditions came
Into their hands, and they as gladly yield me
To the uncircumcis'd a welcome prey,
Bound with two cords; but cords to me were
Touch'd with the flame: on their whole host!
Unarm'd, and with a trivial weapon felld`
Their choicest youth; they only liv'd who fled,
Had Judah that day join'd, or one whole tribe,
They had by this possess'd the towers of Gath,
f nad I sight, confus'd with shame,
d' ace look up or heave the head,
olish pilot, have shipwreck'd
usted to me from above,
rigg'd; and for a word, a tear,
ze divulg'd the secret gift of God
And lorded over them whom they now serve:
But what more oft, in nations grown corrupt,
And by their vices brought to servitude,
Than to love bondage more than liberty,
Bondage with ease than strenuous liberty;
And to despise, or envy, or suspect
Whom God hath of his ecial favour rais'd
As their deliverer? if he aught begin,
How frequent to desert him, and at last
To heap ingratitude on worthiest deeds?
Chor. Thy words to my remembrance bring
How Succoth and the fort of Penuel
Their great deliverer contemn'd,
The matchless Gideon, in pursuit
Of Madian and her vanquish'd kings:
And how ingrateful Ephraim
Had dealt with Jephtha, who by argument,
Not worse than by his shield and spear,
Defended Israel from the Ammonite,
Had not his prowess quell'd their pride
In that sore battle, when so many died
Without reprieve, adjudg'd to death,
For want of well pronouncing Shibboleth.
Sams. Of such examples add me to the roll;
Me easily indeed mine may neglect,
But God's propos'd deliverance not so.
Chor. 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
As to his own edicts found contradicting, [just,
Then give the reins to wandering thought,
Regardless of his glory's diminution;
Till by their own perplexities involv'd,
They ravel more, still less resolv'd,
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 bis people free,
Have prompted this heroic Nazarite,
Against his vow of strictest purity,
To seek in marriage that fallacious bride,
Down, reason, then; at least vain reasonings, 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.
Samps. Ay me! another inward grief, awak'd With mention of that name, renews the assault. [Enter] Manoah.
Man. Brethren and men of Dan, for such ye
Though in this uncouth place; if old respect,
As I suppose, towards your once gloried friend, My son, now captive, hither hath inform'd [age. Your younger feet, while mine cast back with Came lagging after; say if he be here.
Chor. As signal now in low dejected state, As erst in highest, behold him where he lies.
Man. O miserable change! is this the man, That invincible Samson, far renown'd, The dread of Israel's foes, who with a strength Equivalent to angels walk'd their streets, None offering fight; who single combatant Duell'd their armies rank'd in prond array, Himself an army, now unequal match To save himself against a coward arm'd 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 Pray'd for, but often proves our bane? I pray'd for children, and thought barrenness In wedlock a reproach; I gain'd a son, And such a son as all men hail'd 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 adoru'd ? Why are his gifts desirable, to tempt Our earnest prayers, then, given with solemn hand As graces, draw a scorpion's tail behind? For this did the angel twice descend? for this Ordain'd thy nurture holy, as of a plant Select, and sacred, glorious for a while, The miracle of men; then in an hour Eusnar'd, assaulted, overcome, led bound, Thy foe's 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 honour's sake of former deeds.
·Sams. 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, solè cause: if aught seem vile, As vile hath been my folly, who have prophan'd The mystery of God given me under pledge Of vow, and have betray'd it to a woman, A Canaanite, my faithless enemy. This well I knew, nor was at all surpris'd, But warn'd by oft experience: did not she Of Timpa first betray me, and reveal The secret' wrested from me in her height Of nuptial love profess'd, 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 offer'd only, by the scent conceiv'd Her spurious first-born, treason against me? Thrice she assay'd with flattering prayers and sighs,
And amorous reproaches, to win from me
My capital secret, in what part my strength
Lay stor❜d, in what part summ'd, that she might
Thrice I deluded her, and turn'd to sport
Her importunity, each time perceiving
How openly, and with what impudence
She purpos'd 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, mustering all her | Dagon must stoop, and shall ere long receive
With blandish'd parlies, feminine assaults,
Tongue-batteries, she surceas'd not, day nor
Such a discomfit, as shall quite despoil him
Of all these boasted trophies won on me,
And with confusion blank his worshippers.
To storm me over-watch'd, and wearied out.
At times when men seek most repose and rest,
I yielded, and unlock'd her all my heart,
Who, with a grain of manhood well resolv'd,
Might easily have shook off all her snares :
But foul effeminacy held me yok'd
Her bond-slave; O indignity, O blot
To honour 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 than this
That saw not how degenerately I serv'd.
Man. I cannot praise thy marriage-choices,
Rather approv'd 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 over-potent charms,
To violate the sacred trust of silence
Deposited within thee; which to have kept
Tacit was in thy power: true; and thou bear'st
Enough, and more the burthen of that fault;
Bitterly hast thou paid, and still art paying,
That rigid score. A worse thing yet remains;
This day the Fhilistines a popular feast
Here celebrate in Gaza; and proclaim
Great pomp, and sacrifices and praises loud,
To Dagon, as their god who hath deliver'd
Thee, Samson, bound and blind into their hands,
Them out of thine, who slew'st them many a
So Dagon shall be magnified, and God,
Besides whom is no God, compar'd with idols,
Disglorified, blasphem'd, 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,
Sams. Father, I do acknowledge and confess
That I this honour, I this pomp, have brought
To Dagon, and advanc'd his praises high
Among the heathen round: to God have brought
Dishonour, obloquy, and op'd 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 harbour 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 presum'd,
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 provok'd,
But will arise, and his great name assert:
Man. 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 mean while here forgot,
Lie in this miserable loathsome plight,
Neglected. I already have made way
To some Philistian 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
Sams. Spare that proposal, father; spare the
Of that solicitation; let me here, [trouble
As I deserve, pay on my punishment;
And expiate, if possible, my crime,
Shameful garrulity. To have reveal'd
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 publish'd, impiously,
Weakly at least, and shamefully; a sin
That Gentiles in their parables condemn
To their abyss and horrid pains confin'd.
Man. 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 ever more approves, and more accepts,
(Best pleas'd with humble and filial submission,)
Him, who, imploring mercy, sues for life,
Than who, self-rigorous, chooses death as due;
Which argues over-just, and self-displeas'd
For self-offence, more than for God offended.
Reject not then what offer'd 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 offerings, to avert
His further ire, with prayers and vows renew'd?
Sams. His pardon I implore; but as for life,
To what end should I seek it? when in strength
All mortals I excell'd, and great in hopes
With youthful courage, and magnanimous
Of birth from Heaven foretold, and high ex-
Full of divine instinct, after some proof
Of acts indeed heroic, far beyond
The sons of Anak, famous now and blaz'd,
Fearless of danger, like a petty god
I walk'd about admir'd 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 tra ns,
Soften'd with pleasure and voluptuous life,
At length to lay my head and hallow'd 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 turn'd me out ridiculous, despoil'd,
Shaven, and disarm'd among mine enemies.
Chor. Desire of wine and all delicious drinks, Which many a famous warrior overturns, Thou couldst repress; nor did the dancing ruby Sparkling, out pour'd, the flavour, or the smell, Or taste that cheers the heart of gods or men, Allure thee from the cool crystalline stream.
Sams. Wherever fountain or fresh current Against the eastern ray, translucent, pure[flow'd With touch ethereal of Heaven's fiery rod, I drank, from the clear milky juice allaying Thirst, and refresh'd: nor envied them the grape Whose heads that turbulent liquour fills with fumes.
Chor. O madness, to think use of strongest wines
And strongest drinks our chief support of health, When God with these forbidd'n made choice to
His mighty champion, strong above compare,
Whose drink was only from the liquid brook.
Sams. But what avail'd this temperance, not
Against another object more enticing?
What boots it at one gate to make defence,
And at another to let in the foe,
Effeminately vanquish'd? by which means,
Now blind, dishearten'd, sham'd, dishonour'd,
To what can I be useful, wherein serve
My nation, and the work from Heaven impos'd,
But to sit idle on the household hearth,
A burdenouş drone; to visitants a gaze,
Or pitied object, these redundant locks
Robustious to no purpose clustering 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.
Man. Wilt thou then serve the Philistines with
Which was expressly given thee to annoy them?
Better at home lie bed-rid, not only idle,
Inglorious, unemploy'd, with age outworn.
But God, who caus'd 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 than thou hast;
And I persuade me so; why else this strength
Miraculous yet remaining in those locks?
His might continues in thee not for nought,
Nor shall his wonderous gifts be frustrate thus.
Sams. All otherwise to me my thoughts por-
That these dark orbs no more shall treat with
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;
Sams. O that torment should not be confin'd
To the body's wounds and sores,
With maladies innumerable
In heart, head, breast, and reins;
But must secret passage find
To the inmost mind,
There exercise all his fierce accidents,
And on ber 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 lingering disease,
But, finding no redress, ferment and rage;
Nor less than wounds immedicable
Rankle, and fester, and gangrene,
To black mortification.
[stings Thoughts, my tormentors, arm'd with deadly Mangle my apprehensive tenderest parts, Exasperate, exulcerate, and raise Dire inflammation, which no cooling herb Or med'cinal liquor can assuage, Nor breath of vernal air from snowy Alp. Sleep hath forsook and given me o'er To death's benumbing opium as my only cure Thence faintings, swoonings of despair, And sense of Heaven's desertion.
I was his nursling once, and choice delight,
His destin'd from the womb,
Promis'd by heavenly message twice descending.
Under his special eye
Absteminous I grew up, and thriv'd amain;
He led me on to mightiest deeds,
Above the nerve of mortal arm,
Against the uncircumcis'd, our enemies :
But now hath cast me off as never known,
And to those cruel enemies,
Whom I by his appointment had provok'd,
Left me all helpless, with the irreparable loss
Of sight, reserv'd 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.
Chor. Many are the sayings of the wise,
In ancient and in modern books inroll'd,
Extolling patience as the truest fortitude;
And to the bearing well of all calamities,
All chances incidents to man's frail life,
With studied argument, and much persuasion
Lenient of grief and anxious thought:
But with the afflicted in his pangs their sound Little prevails, or rather seems a tune [plaint; Harsh, and of dissonant mood from his com Unless he feel within