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SAMSON AGONISTES:

A DRAMATIC POEM.

BY

JOHN MILTON.

NEW-YORK:

GEORGE DEARBORN, PUBLISHER.

1836.

SAMSON AGONISTES;

A DRAMATIC POEM.

THE ARGUMENT.

Samson made captive, blind, and now in the prison of Gaza, there to labour as in a common workhouse, on a festival day, in the general cessation from labour, comes forth into the open air, to a place nigh, somewhat retired, there to sit awhile 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, Manoah, who endeavours 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 their deliverance from the hands of Samson, which yet more troubles him. Manoah 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 his coming to the feast before the lords and people, to play or shew his strength in their 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 threatenings to fetch him: the Chorus yet remaining on the place, Manoah returns full of joyful hope, to procure ere long his son's deliverance, in the midst of which discourse an Hebrew comes in haste, confusedly at first, and afterwards more distinctly re lating the catastrophe, what Samson had done to the Philistines, and by accident to himself; wherewith the tragedy ends.

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SAMSON. Attendant leading him.

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 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 Heav'n fresh blowing, pure and
sweet,

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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,

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20

Samson Agonistes; Agonistes is a Greek word sig. nifying Actor. The introduction is in imitation of the Edipus Coloneus of Sephocles. For the subject of the poem, and most of the scriptural allusions it contains, reference may be made in general to the Book of Judges.

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Why was my breeding order'd and prescribed 30
As of a person separate to God,

Design'd for great exploits: if I must die
Betray'd, 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

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strength

Put to the labour of a beast, debased
Lower than bond-slave! Promise was that I
Should Israel from Philistian yoke deliver;

Ask for this great deliverer now, and find him 40
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? 46
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

50 Life in captivity

55

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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, 70
And all her various objects of delight
Annull'd, which might in part my grief have eased,
Inferior to the vilest now become

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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!

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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 th' eye confined,
So obvious and so easy to be quench'd ?
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 bury'd: but O yet more miserable!
Myself my sepulchre, a moving grave,
Bury'd, yet not exempt

By privilege of death and burial

From worst of other evils, pains and wrongs, 105

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85

90

95

100

But made hereby obnoxious more To all the miseries of life,

87. Shakspeare, second part of Henry VI. Act 1. Sec. 8.-The silent of the night, which is a classical expression, means, according to Warburton, an interlunar night.

Among inhuman foes.

But who are these? for with joint pace I hear 110
The tread of many feet steering this way;
Perhaps my enemies, who come to stare
At my affliction, and perhaps t' 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 diffused,
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,

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Irresistible Samson? whom unarm'd

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