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A DRAMATIC POEM.
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, lo 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 procuro ere long his son's deliverance, in the midst of which discourse an Hebrew comes in haste, confusedly at first, and afterwards more distinctly relating the catastrophe, what Samson had done to the Philistines, and by accident to himself ; wherewith the tragedy ends.
Samson. Attendant leading him.
But rush upon me thronging, and present Pad
Times past, what once I saw, and what am now A LITTLE onward lend thy guiding hand
O wherefore was my birth from Heav'n foretold To these dark steps, a little further on;
Twice by an angel, who at last in sight For yonder bank hath choice of sun or shade:
Of both my parents all in flames ascended 25 There I am wont to sit, when any chance
From off the altar, where an offering burn'd, Relieves me from my task of servile toil, 5
As in a fiery column charioting Daily in the common prison else enjoin'd me,
His god-like pre nce, and from some great act Where I, a prisoner chain'd, scarce freely draw
Of benefit reveal'd to Abraham's race ? The air imprison'd also, close and damp,
Why was my breeding order'd and prescribed 30 Unwholesome draught! but here I feel amends,
As of a person separate to God, The breath of Heav'n fresh blowing, pure and
Design'd for great exploits : if I must die sweet,
Betray'd, captived, and both my eyes put out, With day-spring born; here leave me to respire.
Made of my enemies the scorn and gaze; This day a solemn feast the people hold 12
To grind in brazen fetters under task
35 To Dagon their sea-idol, and forbid
With this Heav'n-gifted strength? O glorious Laborious works; unwillingly this rest
strength Their superstition yields me; hence with leave
Put to the labour of a beast, debased Retiring from the popular noise, I seek 16
Lower than bond-slave! Promise was that I This unfrequented place to find some ease, Should Israel from Philistian yoke deliver ; Ease to the body some, none to the mind
Ask for this great deliverer now, and find him 40 From restiess thoughts, that like a deadly swarm | Eyeless in Gaza at the mill with slaves, Of hornets arm’d, no sooner found alone, 20 Himself in bonds under Philistian yoke :
Samson Agonistes ; Agonistes is a Greek word sig. Yet stay, let me not rashly call in doubt nifying Actor. The introduction is in imitation of the Divine prediction; what if all foretold Edipus Coloneus of Sephocles. For the subject of
Had been fulfill'd but through mine own default, the poem, and most of the scriptural allusions it contains, reference may be made in general to the Book of
Whom have I to complain of but myself? 46 Judges.
Who this higb gift of strength committed to me,
In what part lodged, how easily bereft me, But made hereby obnoxious more
To all the miseries of life,
! Among inhuman foes. O impotence of mind, in body strong!
But who are these ? for with joint pace I hear 110 But what is strength without a double share The tread of many feet steering this way; Of wisdom, vast, unwieldy, burdensome,
Perhaps my enemies, who come to stare Proudly secure, yet liable to fall
55 At my affliction, and perhaps ť insult, By weakest subtleties, not made to rule,
Their daily practice, to afflict me more. But to subserye where wisdom bears command ? Chor. This, this is he; softly a while, 115 God, when he gave me strength, to show withal Let us not break in upon him ; How slight the gift was, hung it in my hair. O change beyond report, thought, or belief! But peace, I must not quarrel with the will 60 See how he lies at random, carelessly diffused, Of highest dispensation, which herein
With languish'd head uapropt, Haply had ends above my reach to know : As one past hope abandon'd,
120 Suffices that to me strength is my bane,
And by himself given over ;
In slavish habit, ill-fitted weeds
Or do my eyes misrepresent? Can this be he,
That heroic, that renown'd,
125 Blind among enemies, O worse than chains,
Irresistible Samson ? whom unarm'd Dungeon, or beggary, or decrepit age !
No strength of man, or fiercest wild beast, could Light, the prime work of God, to me is extinct, 70
withstand ; And all her various objects of delight
Who tore the lion, as the lion tears the kid, Annull’d, which might in part my grief have eased,
Ran on embattled armies clad in iron, Inferior to the vilest now become
And, weaponless himself,
130 Of man or worm; the vilest here excel me, Made arms ridiculous, useless the forgery They creep, yet see, I dark in light exposed 75
Of brazen shield and spear, the hammer'd cuirass, To daily fraud, contempt, abuse, and wrong ;
Chalybean temper'd steel, and frock of mail Within doors, or without, still as a fool,
Adamantean proof; In power of others, never in my own;
But safest he who stood aloof,
135 Scarce half I seem to live, dead more than half. When insupportably his foot advanced, O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon, 80 In scorn of their proud arms and warlike tools, Irrecoverably dark, total eclipse
Spurn'd them to death by troops. The bold AscaWithout all hope of day!
lonite. O first-created beam, and thou great Word, Fled from his lion ramp, old warriors turn'd Let there be light, and light was over all ;
Their plated backs under his heel;
140 Why am I thus bereaved thy prime decree ? 85 Or groveling soild their crested helmets in the The sun to me is dark
dust. And silent as the moon,
Then with what trivial weapon came to hand, When she deserts the night
The jaw of a dead ass, his sword of bone, Hid in her vacant interlunar cave.
A thousand fore-skins fell, the flower of Palestine, Since light so necessary is to life,
90 In Ramath-lechi, famous to this day. 145 And almost life itself, if it be true
Then by main force pull'd up, and on his shoulders That light is in the soul,
bore She all in every part; why was the sight
The gates of Azza, post, and massy bar,
Up to the hill by Hebron, seat of giants old,
Which shall I first bewail,
151 Then had I not been thus exiled from light, Thy bondage or lost sight, As in the land of darkness yet in light,
Prison within prison
Thou art become (О worst imprisonment!) 155
118. Diffused, a classical expression very frequently
used to describe the languid posture of a weary person. By privilege of death and burial
133. The Chalybes were celebrated for their skill in From worst of other evils, pains and wrongs, 105 tempering steel.
136. Spenser's Faery Queene, B. 1. Can. 7. St. 11. 87. Shakspeare, second part of Henry VI. Act 1. 138. 1 Sam. vi. 17. Sec. 8.—The silent of the night, which is a classical 147. Azza for Gaza, to avoid the alliteration of gates expression, means, according to Warburton, an inter- and Gaza. hinar night.
148. Josh. xv. 13, 14. Num. xii. 33.