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Samfon Agonistes.

Little onward lend thy guiding hand
To thefe dark steps, a little farther on;
For yonder bank hath choice of Sun
or fhade



There I am wont to fit, when any
Relieves me from my task of fervile toil
Daily in the common Frifon elfe enjoin'd me;
Where I a Pris'ner chain'd, fcarce freely draw
The Air imprifon'd alfo, close and damp,
Unwholesome draught: but here I feel amends,
The breath of Heav'n fresh blowing, pure and fweet, 10
With day-fpring born; here leave me to refpire.
This day a folemn Feaft the people hold
To Dagon their Sea-Idol, and forbid
Laborious works; unwillingly this reft
Their Superftition yields me: hence with leave
Retiring from the pop'lar noife, I feek
This unfrequented Place to find fome eafe,
Eafe to the body fome, none to the mind
From reftlefs thoughts, that like a deadly fwarm
Of hornets arm'd, no fooner found alone,
But rush upon me thronging, and prefent



Times paft, what once I was, and what am now.
O wherefore was my birth from Heav'n foretold
Twice by an Angel; who at laft in fight
Of both my Parents all in flames afcended
From off the Altar, where an Off'ring 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 perfon feparate to God,
Defign'd for great exploits; if I muft die
Betray'd, captiv'd, and both my Eyes put out,
Made of my Enemies the fcorn and gaze;
To grind in brazen fetters under task,
With this Heav'n-gifted strength? O glorious ftrength
Put to the labour of a beaft, debas'd


Lower than bondflave! Promife was that I
Should Ifrael from Philiftian yoke deliver
Afk for this great deliv'rer now, and find him
Eyeless in Gaza at the Mill with slaves,
Himfelf in bonds under Philiftian yoke.
Yet stay, let me not rafhly call in doubt
Divine Prediction: what if all foretold
Had been fulfill'd but thro' mine own default,
Whom have I to complain of but my self;
Who this high gift of ftrength committed to me,
In what part lodg'd, how eafily bereft me,
Under the Seal of filence could not keep,
But weakly to a Woman muft reveal it,
O'ercome with importunity and tears ?
O impotence of mind, in body ftrong!
But what is ftrength without a double thare
Of wisdom? vaft, unwieldy, burthenfome,
Proudly fecure, yet liable to fall

By weakeft fubtleties, not made to rule,
But to fubferve where wifdom bears command.
God, when he gave me ftrength, to fhew withal
How flight the gift was, hung it in my Hair.









But Peace, I muft not quarrel with the will
Of highest difpenfation, which herein
Haply had ends above my reach to know:
Suffices that to me strength is my bane,
And proves the fource of all my miferies?
So many, and fo huge, that each apart
Would ask a life to wail; but chief of all,
O lofs of fight, of thee I moft complain!
Blind among Enemies! O'worfe than chains,
Dungeon, or beggary, decrepit Age!
Light, the prime work of God, to me is extinct,
And all her various objects of delight
Annull'd, which might in part my grief have eas'd,
Inferior to the vileft now become
Of man or worm; the vileft here excel me:
They creep, yet fee; I dark in light expos'd
To daily fraud, contempt, abuse and wrong,
Within doors, or without, ftill as a fool,
In pow'r of others, never in my own;
Scarce half I feem to live, dead more than half.
O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon,
Irrecov'rably dark, total Eclipfe
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 filent as the moon,
When the deferts the night,
Hid in her vacant interlunar cave.

Since Light fo neceffary is to life,
And almoft life itfelf, if it be true
That light is in the Soul,

She all in ev'ry part; why was the fight
To fuch a tender ball as th'eye confin'd,
So obvious and fo eafie to be quench'd;
And not, as feeling, through all parts diffus'd,
That the might look at will through ev'ry pore?



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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 bury'd; but O yet more miserable!
My felf, my Sepulchre, a moving Grave!
Bury'd, 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 inhumane foes.

But who are these? for with joint pace
The tread of many feet steering this way;
Perhaps my enemies who come to stare
At my affliction, and perhaps t' infult;
Their daily practice to afflict me more.

I hear

Chor. This, this is he; foftly a while, him. Let us not break in upon O change beyond report, thought or belief! See how he lies at random, carelefly diffus'd, 'With languish'd head unpropt, As one past hope, abandon'd, And by himself given over; In flavish habit, ill-fitted weeds - O'er-worn and foil'd:

Or do my eyes mifreprefent? Can this be he,
That Heroick, that Renown'd,


Ran on imbattl'd Armies clad in Iron,

And weaponlefs himself,

Made Arms ridiculous, ufelefs the forgery
Of brazen Shield and Spear, the hammer'd Cuirass,
Chalybean temper'd fleel, and frock of mail
Adamantean Proof?





Irrefiftible Samfon; whom unarm'd


No ftrength of man, or fierceft wild beast could withWho tore the Lion, as the Lion tears the Kid,




But fafelt he who stood aloof,

When infupportably his foot advanc'd,
In fcorn of their proud arms and warlike tools,
Spurn'd them to death by Troops. The bold Afcalonite
Fled from his Lion ramp, old warriors turned
Their plated backs under his heel ;

Or grov'ling foil'd their crefted helmets in the duft.
Then with what trivial weapon came to hand,
The Jaw of a dead Afs, his fword of bone,
A thoufand fore-fkins fell, the flow'r of Palestin,
In Ramath-lechi, famous to this day:


Then by main force pull'd up, and on his fhoulders bore The Gates of Azza, Poft and maffie Bar,

Up to the Hill by Hebron, feat of Giants old,
No journey of a Sabbath-day, and loaded fo;
Like whom the Gentiles feign to bear up heav'n.
Which fhall I first bewail,

Thy Bondage or loft Sight,
Prifon within Prifon

Iafeparably dark ?

Thou art become (O worst imprisonment!)
The Dungeon of thyfelf; thy Seul


O mirror of our fickle ftate,
Since man on earth unparallel'd!
The rarer thy example stands,
By how much from the top of wond'rous 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 fphere of fortune raifes:

G 2



(Which Men enjoying fight oft without caufe complain'd) Imprifon'd now indeed,

In real darkness of the body dwells,
Shut up from outward light

'T' incorporate with gloomy night;
For inward light, alas!

Puts forth no visual beam.





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